Legendary celebrity chef and entrepreneur Wolfgang Puck was in St. Petersburg July 25-26 for six two-hour on-air pitches on HSN (Home Shopping Network) for his breakthrough WP Pressure Oven.
In development about three years, it’s claimed as the world’s first “pressure oven,” combining the best aspects of a convection oven and a pressure cooker. Interior pressure speeds up cooking up to 70% faster than regular ovens, and, like pressure cookers, forces liquid and moisture into foods quickly and evenly, tenderizing meat and adding flavor. The WPPO also toasts, re-heats, rotisseries, bakes and acts as a convection oven.
First available online at www.puckoven.com, about 900 test pieces were sold on HSN in June 2013, and 15,000 were sold on one day last October, according to Michael Sanseverino, Executive VP. Small Kitchen Electrics for W.P. Licensing/Productions/Appliances based in Hollywood, FL.
On this July visit, with 12,000 available, 3,200 were sold the first hour on-air at $249.95, a $50 discount off the regular price, with bonus free shipping. Wolfgang will be back on HSN in October, with 18,000 units available for holiday buyers. He typically makes about six trips a year from his Los Angeles home.
The retail rollout starts in September, with a custom rotisserie unit for Williams & Sonoma, as well as Macy’s, Kohls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears and JC Penney, among others. Several chains will feature in-store cooking classes and live demos.
In an exclusive interview with Destination Tampa Bay, Wolfgang said development of the Pressure Oven was a real hands-on situation.
“When we brought my first cookware to HSN almost 16 years ago, it had gone through my own tests with consumers to assure top performance,” he said. “Michael does the research and on-site trips to find the best manufacturers. If a customer buys one bad product, we would get the fallout with our other appliances and even our restaurants.
“We saw the need for a new pressure oven, as our popular Pressure Cooker could not caramelize, and we had to lower its 17psi to about 1psi that would allow the heat to wrap around the food. As an example, when cooking up to a 14-pound turkey in 55 minutes, the pressure keeps the moisture and spices in the turkey, with a crisp skin and tender meat inside. It took almost three years of testing various concepts, and then using sample groups, to come up with what we believed was the best product. Kitchen Tek has been a great partner for our W.P. Appliances.”
He went on to explain that the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven is very versatile without the pressure level ‘on’ as it can be used as a toaster oven, and its compact footprint – 19 7/8” wide, 15 7/8” deep and 12 3/8” high – fits nicely on any kitchen counter. It comes with a baking rack, broil rack insert, drip/baking pan, roasting pan and crumb tray, with some custom units offering a rotisserie.
“As we demonstrated today, we cooked and baked an array of foods that included turkey, chicken, prime rib, fish, spare ribs, pizza, cinnamon buns, muffins, and a meringue cake, among other items” Wolfgang pointed out. “We didn’t want to limit the menu for anyone, and we have a cooking chart for any home menu item. Our best advice to consumers everywhere is to have the right appliances, and to eat good, healthy food. It’s all in my book, ‘Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy.’”
Asked about the Tampa Bay dining scene, Wolfgang said, “We don’t often get out on my trips here but went to Bern’s Steakhouse last night. It’s an amazing institution with tradition, like Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, and it seems to have worked very well for them. As for a Wolfgang Puck here, you have to find the right young chef first. In the next two years we’re opening restaurants in Dubai, two in Bahrein and Singapore.
“I always look forward to my trips here to St. Petersburg. This time it’s a two-day break from a vacation, leaving London for a stop here before heading home to L.A.”
Wolfgang Puck: An American Success Story
Wolfgang Puck has built an empire that includes Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. He began cooking at his mother’s side as a child. She was a chef in the Austrian town where he was born, and with her encouragement, began his formal training at age 14. As a young chef he worked in some of France’s greatest restaurants, including Maxim’s in Paris and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. At age 24 he came to the U.S. with his first job at restaurant La Tour in Indianapolis from 1973-75. He came to L.A. in 1975 and got the attention of the Hollywood elite as chef and eventually part owner of Ma Maison in West Hollywood. His first flagship restaurant, Spago, originally located in West Hollywood, was an instant success from its opening day in 1982. That was the beginning of a string of successes, and since 2001, Wolfgang and his Fine Dining Group have opened restaurants across the U.S. from Atlantic City to Maui, as well as overseas.
Wolfgang formed Wolfgang Puck Catering (WPC) in May 1998, alongside partner Carl Schuster. The company brings a new level of innovation and inspiration to restaurant and special event catering and foodservice management for cultural, corporate and entertainment venues across the country. WPC is renowned for catering such high profile events as the annual Governors Ball, where Puck has been honored to serve as official chef for the post-Academy Awards® celebrity banquet for the past 14 years, as well as the GRAMMY awards celebration, the ESPY awards, American Music Awards, presidential galas and fundraisers.
Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. is a privately held corporation that includes a rapidly growing franchise of casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro restaurants, fast-casual Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants, consumer products, book publishing, television and Internet programming, and other licensing and merchandising projects. In 1991, Wolfgang launched a chain of fast-casual restaurants called Wolfgang Puck Express. Today there are more than 80 locations in major urban and suburban retail centers and airports throughout the U.S., Canada and Japan.
Concurrently with his restaurant and catering operations, Wolfgang has made a name for himself as a communicator. He has written six cookbooks and has been a regular guest on ABC’s “Good Morning America” since 1986, the year he also produced his first instructional cooking video, “Spago Cooking with Wolfgang Puck.” His Emmy Award-winning television series, “Wolfgang Puck,” debuted on The Food Network in 2000 and aired for five seasons. His syndicated newspaper column, “Wolfgang Puck’s Kitchen,” appears in 30 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, reaching more than 5.3 million people each week.
The chef is known to tens of thousands of television viewers who see him regularly on HSN, where he demonstrates recipes using his growing line of Wolfgang Puck branded housewares. These include stainless steel cookware, small kitchen electrics such as panini grills, food processors, blenders and electric grills, flatware, cutlery, bakeware, and other kitchen gadgets and tools.
Central to all of his endeavors is his Wolfgang’s Eat, Love, Live ™ (WELL) philosophy. This stands for culinary passion for eating and dining WELL, which means a commitment to provide food made with only the freshest and most natural and organic ingredients available, to celebrate local farmers and seasonal ingredients, and to use only humanely raised animal products. He lives in Los Angeles, with his wife, Gelila, and has four sons, Cameron, Byron, Oliver, and Alexander.
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