Talking Food and Travel with Wolfgang Puck at Vegas Uncork’d
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Several TPG staffers recently took off for Vegas Uncork’d. With their Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, they were given special access to events, where they were able to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the culinary world. Read on for some food- and travel-centric conversation, as told by TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt.
A couple weeks ago, Team TPG took off for Vegas with our Chase Sapphire Preferred cards in-hand. After buying tickets and with our Sapphire Preferred cards, we were granted access to cardholder-exclusive events that left us raving about the experience at Vegas Uncork’d.
As Sapphire Preferred cardholders, you’re entitled to so much more than the card’s terrific sign-up bonus and bonus earning categories, such as 2x points on dining and travel and 1x points on everything else. But to take advantage of cool events like Vegas Uncork’d with your Sapphire Preferred, keep an eye on Chase’s schedule of events, which marks which events grant special access and perks for cardholders.
One of the neatest things about our access at Vegas Uncork’d was that we were — quite literally — rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the culinary world. Chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud and many, many more were often in the same room as us — especially at cardholder-only events like the Saber-Off Kick-Off. At the Grand Tasting, which is the main event at Vegas Uncork’d, big names like Guy Savoy and Wolfgang Puck were wandering around the Chase Sapphire Preferred lounge chatting and willing to take pictures with anyone who asked.
We got to sit down with a couple of the big names in the culinary and culinary publishing world to talk food, travel — and a combination of the two. Read on for our conversations.
Wolfgang Puck, celebrity chef and winner of a James Beard award and two Michelin stars:
TPG: What’s your favorite airline?
Wolfgang Puck: My favorite airline in the world is Emirates.
TPG: What’s your favorite airline for food?
WP: I always tell people I diet on the airplane because most of the time, the food on the airline is terrible. A few of them, like Emirates, at least have great wines — they have Dom Perignon for Champagne and a good Bordeaux. So I drink a little bit and try not to eat too much. I remember last time on Emirates, they had a very good chicken soup and I was happy — I didn’t need caviar or smoked salmon because it’s important when you’re on a plane not to overeat or overdrink.
TPG: What the worst meal or worst experience you’ve had on a plane?
WP: So many. And because I’ve had so many bad experiences, I eat before now — sometimes in the airports. There are quite interesting restaurants in airports now. I think very few airlines really have great service for food and beverage. I took United to Tokyo and it was terrible — I wanted soup and they didn’t have soup, and then I wanted a hot tea and the tea was warm and then I said bring me another blanket and they didn’t have one. It was terrible; I was so upset. But the airlines aren’t there for food, they’re there to get us safe from one place to the other.
TPG: What’s the best hotel meal you’ve had?
WP: I’ve been to many hotels in my life. One of the last ones I had was at La Reserve up in Beaulieu and it was amazing — it’s in the south of France. You sit on a harbor outside and they have a terrace and you see the boats go by and everything and the whole setting is amazing. And, on top of it, I used to work there like 40 years ago. You can go to many hotels in Paris or London or LA and have great food. One of the best is in our hotel at Bel-Air [Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air]. I order a vegan menu there and it’s really amazing because of all the great products.
TPG: What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path culinary city?
WP: I generally go to bigger cities. Even when I go to off-the-beaten-path cities, I go to restaurants that are well known. Like I went to the Fat Duck in Bray, which is an hour outside of London.
TPG: What’s your favorite city in the US for food?
WP: Los Angeles because I live in Los Angeles and I think we have the biggest variety of food. We have a Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Koreatown, Latin Quarters, Little India and a big Chinese population.
Next, we sat down with Adam Rapoport, Editor-in-Chief, Bon Appetit magazine:
TPG: What’s your favorite airline to fly?
Adam Rapoport: I’m a Delta guy. I used to be a Continental guy — I was very loyal, especially because Continental flew out of Newark. But when the United-Continental merger went down, I found it was such a mess for so many years. It was just so chaotic and the customer service went down, and I’ve heard it’s gotten better in the past year or two, but I just got fed up. It was complicated — you didn’t know which airline you were on, sometimes I was on planes that had no branding at all, and sometimes there was Wi-Fi and sometimes there wasn’t. I was like get your act together and get back to me when you do. I’ve been a Delta guy for like the last four years and I’m very happy with it.
TPG: What’s your favorite hotel brand?
AR: I’m going to sound like a real snob, but I will pretty much stay at any Andre Balazs property. So if I’m in LA, I’ll stay at the Chateau Marmont. I really enjoy The Standard in Miami — I love being on the water there. If I’m going to London, I’ll go have drinks at the Chiltern Firehouse. And I’m always happy to spend time at any Aman property. I was lucky enough to go to the Aman property in Turks and Caicos and that was the best vacation ever — the most calming, serene, just beautiful place in the world.
TPG: What’s the best meal you’ve had on a plane?
AR: On the way to Vegas yesterday [on Delta], they had chicken enchiladas for lunch and I was like that sounds like trouble, but I’m kind of hungry so I’m going to get it anyways — and it was shockingly good. The tortillas were nice with melted cheese and I was totally surprised. I can be very particular, so I’ll eat before I get on the plane a lot of times. On Delta, everyone loves those little Biscoff biscuit cookies. I’ll always grab a pack for myself and like three packs for my 8-year-old son so when I come home he’s happy to see me.
TPG: What’s the worst meal you’ve had on a plane?
AR: There’s been all sorts of mediocrity. One time I was flying to Europe on Alitalia and I was in business class and I tried to order a vodka soda — I wanted to have a drink or two before I went to sleep. The guy was like “Sorry, we don’t carry vodka — our European customers don’t prefer it.” I was like first of all, you’re flying out of JFK and who doesn’t have vodka?! I was so angry, but then they came around and had a really beautiful dinner service with seat-side pasta preparations and nice wine — so they kind of won me back over.
TPG: What’s your favorite domestic culinary city?
AR: We write a lot about Portland, Maine, and in the next issue, we’ve written about Portland, Oregon. And what I like about cities like those is that they’re on the smaller side — Portland, Maine, especially. It’s nice when you can go to a city and get a handle on it in like 2-3 days. You don’t have to call 30 days in advance to get a reservation somewhere, and dinner’s not going to cost you $300. As many amazing places as there are in New York City, it can be exhausting and taxing in how difficult it is to get in places and how expensive it can be. Going to cities like Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon — sort of those mid-level cities with really high-quality food. I just really think the quality of food across the United States has just surged remarkably in the last 10 years.
TPG: What’s your favorite international culinary city?
AR: As cliche as Italy is as a destination, it’s cliche for a reason because it’s always good and the food there has quality ingredients that are simply prepared. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles. You can have remarkable meals in Paris, but you can also have a lot of bad meals in Paris — you really have to know where to go. There’s just something very sensible about Italian cooking.
TPG: What’s a city where you were pleasantly surprised with the food options?
AR: I think a city like Pittsburgh is really on the rise at the moment. There are a lot of really interesting places and there’s an Ace Hotel open there now — when an Ace Hotel opens up somewhere, it’s like the stamp of coolness. I was there last summer and had a wonderful meal at a restaurant/bar call Bar Marco, which was great. It’s just really cool to go to all of these cities that have never really been known for great food but are now getting all sorts of great restaurants, coffee places and bakeries. It’s impressive.
I really like the perks I get as a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, like amazing access at Vegas Uncork’d, where I had an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the culinary world. As a cardholder, you’re entitled to special perks, giving you more preferred access to events, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Lounge at the Grand Tasting and cardholder-only access at the Saber-Off Kick-Off event. Check out Chase’s list of events so you can get a better idea of planning your schedule around neat events like this.
If you’re not yet a cardholder but would like to sign up for exclusive access to events like this, now’s a good time to sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card is currently offering 50,000 points as a sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. In addition, you can earn an additional 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months.
What do you think about what Wolfgang Puck and Adam Rapoport had to say about food and travel? Do you agree or disagree?