By Billie Cohen, CNTraveler.com
When the Oscars roll around every year, we take you behind the scenes at the Governors Ball—because, let’s be honest, there are some L.A. experiences we’re just never going to have first-hand. As always, our guide is Wolfgang Puck, who this year reveals his celebrity friends’ favorite dishes (Barbra Streisand loves his mushroom risotto with black truffles), as well as details behind his 20th anniversary as the caterer of the big bash. “I remember last year Jennifer Lawrence came up to me and said, ‘I know you, I’ve seen your picture on my soup at home!’” Enjoy the rest of this Oscar deliciousness as we revisit some food faves of the past 20 years…
SMOKED SALMON OSCAR MATZO
"We’ve made this for many years, and it has become popular—they all love them. I remember the first time Michael Caine had one, he came to Spago a few days later and I made him a smoked salmon pizza and he said, ‘No, I want the smoked salmon Oscars!’"
VEGETABLE SPRING ROLL, CHINESE MUSTARD
"Anthony Hopkins is sometimes a vegetarian and he loves these spring rolls from Chinois."
SPICY TUNA TARTARE IN A SESAME SEED CONE
"This could’ve been on the menu since ‘97 or ‘98. It’s a perennial favorite. People love it when they come to the restaurant, from Martin Scorsese to John Travolta and Michael Douglas. At the restaurant, they order it specifically."
See Also: America’s Best Sandwiches
MINIATURE KOBE BURGERS
"We’ve done these for a long time already, maybe 20 years. Everybody loves the little burgers and our pizzas. I remember Jay Leno was at the party and he went to the seafood bar and he said, ‘That’s all nice, but where are my hamburgers?’"
"When people come out of the theater, they go to the sushi and seafood bar and they hang out and get a few pieces."
See Also: 10 Amazing Nutella Concoctions
BAKED POTATO WITH CAVIAR
“The gold foil-wrapped potato with caviar is one of George Clooney’s favorites!”
CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER POPS
"I don’t eat peanut butter—I don’t like the flavor of it. But I go from table to table and generally people love it."
"I know that Natalie Portman and Ellen DeGeneres are vegans, so I cook with them in mind, like the edamame guacamole [from last year]. This year, we have the butternut squash with farro and wild rice, the chopped vegetable salad, and the carrot cake. If Ellen is there, we will have a big tray with three or four vegan dishes sent to the table. But we make what we make. If it’s Tom Cruise or Robert Downey, Jr., or Barbra Streisand, they all come to our restaurant anyway, and they eat what I tell them. If Leonardo DiCaprio comes to Spago, I give him a California tasting menu. So after all these years, they trust me. But sometimes, like last year, when Ang Lee came in and won for Best Director, I asked if he wanted something Italian or Chinese, and he said Chinese, so I made him steamed fish with ginger scallion and bok choy.”
BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE
"They love them. They can’t get enough. It seems comfort food is more popular than ever. We make a fried chicken with grits and honey, and that’s popular too."
CHICKEN POT PIE WITH BLACK TRUFFLES
"People ask for these. The Board of Governors [of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] says, ‘We don’t care what you make, but you have to make the chicken pot pie.’"
POWER SMOOTHIES AND CARROT-ORANGE GAZPACHO
"We have some orange juice and carrot juice and then put a garnish of apples and carrots on top, so you have a little shot. If you’re tired, you have that and you’ll wake up."
"I would probably start [my own meal] with the baked potato with caviar, and then a little Chinois lobster, maybe a little risotto or tortellini with a little mini weiner schnitzels. But I eat because i’m nervous, not because I’m hungry."
20TH ANNIVERSARY CAKE
"[To celebrate our 20th anniversary as caterers of the Governors Ball,] we are going to have the big birthday cake, and give everyone a piece of cake. We have the chocolate Oscars again and a big chocolate station, where you can have small desserts, like the yuzu semifreddo with green tea meringue and sake blueberries; licorice and chocolate parfait with caramelized tobacco leaves, vegan carrot cake. I am the biggest sweet tooth there is, I don’t think there is anyone more than me.""
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