As readers well know, not everything gets into a final piece and certainly my Post article on steak sauce had its share of leftovers (some of which have already run on this site). Below is the rest of the transcript from my interview earlier this year with Wolfgang Puck, with whom I spoke over the phone (he was calling from the kitchen of Spago at Beverly Hills).
VM: Some steakhouses will argue that the beef is so good you don’t need sauce. Why ruin a prime cut of beef?
WP: It’s like a woman is that good looking she doesn’t need clothes. [But] in certain instances, it’s okay. [Laughs]
You know, I think obviously, for me, if I have a really great steak, if it’s well seasoned—the problem is often they underseason it, there’s not enough salt, and there’s not enough pepper on it. If it’s well seasoned and the steak is really good, you really don’t need much … sauce. Yet I love to dip my french fries in a béarnaise with a Dijon mustard. So I have the steak by itself but I dip the french fries, and that’s really as much as I eat the sauce with my steak.
VM: Did you know from the outset when you opened CUT that you were going to have steak sauces on the menu?
WP: Well, I thought to make it a little bit different. You know, we always try to say, “How can we try to differentiate ourselves?” If you really think you don’t need much with anything—if you really look at tomatoes, you can just put a little olive oil and salt and then they’re fine. But why have burrata with it or mozzarella or basil or whatever, but you want to have more. So I think I want to give people different experiences so that way if they want to have a peppercorn sauce or a mustard sauce, a béarnaise sauce or something like that, they can have it.
One of the great things is that everything is on the side. So you are not obligated to have your meat covered in sauce like, you go to a bistro, and you get a peppersteak and it’s [covered] all over with sauce. So I think the good thing is if I often order our steak sauce, I put a little dab just on the side, and I taste it with it, but then I say, “A little bit is okay but not much.”
VM: Even though I didn’t order sauce with my steak at the CUT in Las Vegas, the server brought over three mustards and said you were impartial to them.
WP: Exactly. I eat mustard with my fish, I eat mustard with my meat, with my liver, with everything.
VM: Is that an Austrian preference or a Wolfgang preference?
WP: Ehh, maybe mine because I used to work in Dijon, and Dijon is famous for their mustard. So I think it started there because the Austrian mustard is a little bit different, you know.
VM: So are these sauces we see on the menus here to stay?
WP: Yeah, I definitely think they are here to stay, and maybe we can invent some new ones. You know, something where you think, okay, how can we change your meat or enhance your meat a little bit? And I think it certainly has its place, but the good thing is, most of the steakhouses, I guess, serve the sauce on the side so you don’t have to really eat your steak covered in sauce. When I have it, I put maybe a teaspoonful of the sauce on my plate, and then when I cut my steak, put a little bit on it—but just a little bit so it doesn’t overpower it.
Photo by Greg Gorman