HBO's 'The Event' follows celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck
Cooking a meal for a big group is always stressful. So just imagine cooking for over 1,000 guests. Now make those guests white-hot celebrities like Brad Pitt.
That's what usually faces chef Wolfgang Puck's catering business, tasked with preparing hundreds of plates of miso-glazed salmon or slow-braised short ribs at buzzy events.
Usually cameras are trained on the celebrities at such shindigs, but with the new HBO Max series "The Event," they have captured the cooks and servers toiling behind the scenes.
"I do think we tend to take catered food completely for granted," says John Watkin, who with frequent collaborator Eamon Harrington co-directed the documentary series and served as executive producers.
From the Screen Actors Guild Awards to HBO's premier party for "Westworld," the four-part series shows the intense planning and details that go into high-profile catering.
With complex dishes and makeshift kitchens, something is bound to go wrong, and that's one of the lessons home cooks can learn from the series — flexibility. As one chef notes: "To me, catering is all about adjusting."
That was evident last January at the SAG awards in Los Angeles. Puck's team had created a dish for 1,280 that included pan-roasted chicken with turnip ginger puree and gooseberry salsa verde alongside miso-glazed salmon with sticky rice and sesame cucumbers. Then the chefs got a stunning bombshell from organizers just days before the vent: The award show had decided to go vegan.
In the second episode, 1,200 business venture capitalists and business bigwigs gather for the Upfront Summit at the Rose Bowl for a two-day event that requires catering for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.
Watkin and Harrington began the project last January, only a few days before the SAG award. Every event was likely to attract Puck himself, who is just as much as a celebrity as the guests. The chef often got busy — tasting, advising and even manning a cooking station. "You don't know if he's coming for 15 minutes or if he's coming for two hours. But while he's there, he becomes the center of attention," says Harrington. Puck didn't interfere with the series, and his only request was that his food "look good."
The film crews showed up on big days with the cooks — sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. — but there were some benefits. Watkin and Harrington felt obliged to try all the food. After all, they had to know what they were describing. Watkin recalls taking a few bites of the messy quiche — and losing his mind.