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Puck Steps In at Spago; Anyone for an Oscar Bash?

March 20, 1994|KATHIE JENKINS

Now might be exactly the right time to eat at Spago. Head chef Joseph Manzare has left Wolfgang Puck's West Hollywood restaurant and, until Puck replaces him, the great chef himself has temporarily taken over lead cooking duties. (Puck normally stops by each of his three local restaurants nightly and spends a portion of the evening in the open kitchen of at least one of them.)

Manzare co-cooked with Kevin Ripley at Puck's Malibu restaurant, Granita, before he became head chef at Spago. "He lived in one of the big buildings right on the beach in Santa Monica," says Puck, "and he completely freaked out after the quake. One night he came in and just said, 'I'm leaving.' He didn't want to go home."

"No way," responds Manzare. "I'm in my apartment in Santa Monica right now on the eighth floor looking out at the ocean. The earthquake happened a month before I left. (My leaving Spago) had nothing to do with the earthquake. The truth is, I am working on my own project."

Matt Nichols is the most likely candidate to replace Manzare. "I told Matt if everything works out he is going to get the chance." says Puck. "He's really very good."

Meanwhile, the Puck empire grows. Besides his 10-year-old Spago flagship and four other celebrity-studded restaurants, an interest in a Spago spinoff in Tokyo (and soon another in Mexico City) and a frozen pizza company, the Visa pitchman is now feeding the mozzarella-ed masses through a string of fast-food cafes.

Puck is getting into the take-out act too. He's just opened "Wolfgang Puck to Go" in Gelsons Pacific Palisades, where white collars can pick up pizzas, pastas, salads, pasta sauces, salad dressings, Spago-baked breads, even Spago matzo. "Business is good out there," says Puck. "because they are all our customers anyway."

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OSCAR BASHING: The one thing Puck is not cashing in on--at least this year--is an Oscar party at Spago. As previously reported, Spago will be closed on Oscar night for the first time in eight years. And, unless you're a major star or some other VIP, the party at Morton's is already booked.

But there's always the Tony Bill party. The director/producer/actor/former AT&T spokesman is celebrating the Oscars at his 72 Market Street in Venice beginning at 6 p.m. For $30, customers get a four-course buffet dinner prepared by chef Roland Gibert and a big-screen view of the awards.

The partying also starts at 6 p.m. at Typhoon at the Santa Monica Airport. This black-tie optional affair features a worldly buffet ($25.50 per person), big-screen viewing of the Academy Awards, and big parking spaces for incoming private planes.

Ed Debevic's Oscar party raises money for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Partygoers pay $19.94 for an all-you-can-eat-buffet consisting of Ed's mom's meatloaf, cheeseburgers, buffalo wings, "chick" sticks and homemade tortilla chips and guacamole.

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