Superstar chef Wolfgang Puck flew into town last week for the grand opening of the Newseum, home of his DC restaurant the Source. Although he was a day too late for the Inn at Little Washington’s anniversary soiree, where he was one of the 30 “culinary pioneers” honored, Puck mingled among the 3,000 guests at the Newseum’s boldface-name-studded opening gala on Friday night.
On Friday afternoon, Puck took a break from posing for pictures and prepping for the night’s event to chat for a few minutes on the Source’s sunny terrace.
Is this your first time back to Washington since the Source’s opening in October?
No, no, I was here three weeks ago. But then it wasn’t as nice weather! I came with my wife, and we got a chance to see some museums—the Hirshhorn and the Portrait Gallery.
Was the Source what you envisioned when you first committed to opening a restaurant at the Newseum site back in 2005?
It’s so hard to know what it’s going to look like when it’s finished. Now that we see the whole thing, it really makes sense. Before, everything was under construction and we were open on a little corner here, so I thought, Oh, no.
Who came up with the restaurant's name?
We were talking about where things come from. Things come from the source. And I said it’s the same thing with food or with the news. There’s always a source for everything. A source for fruit, a source for vegetables, and so on. So I thought, “We’ll call it the Source.” At the beginning, I thought, maybe this sounds a little too funny. But now I think it works.
Do you have a favorite dish on the menu at the Source?
I love the duck. And the lamb, the scallops. It really depends. Downstairs, I’m still proud of the pizza, but the most popular thing downstairs is the mini-hamburgers. I still love the smoked-salmon pizza, which I’m known for from Spago.
Have you gotten a chance to eat out in DC? Any restaurants you’d like to try?
The bad thing is, whenever I have a restaurant somewhere, I don’t ever go out. I’m always at the restaurant when I’m here. I’m good friends with Michel Richard, but I didn’t go yet to his restaurants. I like ethnic restaurants, and someone told me that there’s a good Indian restaurant nearby, Rasika. I’d like to try that.
Have you been to Michel Richard’s restaurants in LA, where you live?
No, I haven’t yet. I read a review [of Richard's Citrus at Social]—he got a very nice review. It’s not in the right location for a restaurant like that. It’s in Hollywood, which is good for clubs, good for young people. They want to hang out, not to go to a formal restaurant. A restaurant like we have downstairs at the Source would be perfect for that. Little things to eat, a place to go and hang out.
Where do you stay when you come to DC?
At the Mandarin. I haven’t had a chance yet to eat at CityZen.
Any plans for future museum restaurants?
A lady was here from the Smithsonian, and she asked me about doing something there. But often the people who run museums, they don’t want to spend the money. So it’s hard to do it. If the people who run it aren’t used to having a real restaurant, it’s not that easy. We have one in Minneapolis and this one.
Do you envision other restaurants in DC?
There could be. We don’t have an offer yet—except maybe with the Four Seasons. I talked with them, and they said maybe we should do a restaurant over there because we have two restaurants with them—at the Beverly Wilshire and in Maui. Both of them are packed all the time, and they get a good crowd. We took over the spaces and remodeled completely. So they were happy with them. Maybe the next one in DC would be Cut, a steakhouse. They wanted us originally to put a restaurant like that here, but I said we can’t do that—we’re right across from the Capital Grille. They already make steak. I said we don’t need that on each side of the street—we need to be a little bit more inventive here.
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