Joe Essa, President of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc.
Seth Makowsky caught up with Joe Essa, President of Wolfgang Puck, for this month’s #MRGTOP10. Joe Essa started with Wolfgang Puck in 1999 as the Managing Partner of Operations. He assisted with the day to day operations and finances of the 15 fine dining Wolfgang Puck restaurants. By 2008, he was appointed as President of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide where he has worked to refine and streamline the company. Before his extensive journey with Wolfgang, he fine-tuned his restaurant leadership skills with two of his very own restaurant businesses Assaggio and Café Pasta.
- Best thing you’ve ever cooked and why? Spaghetti alla Carbonara. When I was a student living in Florence Italy, the Pensione that I lived served Carbonara once a week and it was my favorite meal. One day the mother that ran the kitchen offered to teach me her way to make Carbonara. I have used the same recipe and method now for 37 years!
- Childhood food that you still won’t eat? Frozen Fish Sticks
- Dead or alive who would you most love to cook with or work with? Way too many to pick one!
- Why did you decide to become a leader in the restaurant biz? The passion that is needed for every aspect of our business and the wonderful and varied people you meet along the way
- Funniest food or work-related mishap/incident? Probably in my first restaurant, Café Pasta, during the first few honeymoon months. I walked into the restaurant one Saturday morning to find the chef passed out drunk in the walk-in. I had a full house that night and had to become the chef for the night. Haven’t stopped since!
- How has the business changed during your career? Technology, Communications, and Systems have enabled consumers and operators to learn more and learn quicker, and now margins are thinner than ever and we must always find more efficient and effective ways to express our passion for the business
- Most challenging ingredient to work with? Allspice for all of my mother’s Lebanese food recipes so that I don’t overdue it!
- Staple junk food in your pantry? Ruffled potato chips and onion dip!
- What is your best career accomplishment to date? Still love to get up every day and work in our industry!
- What is your favorite aspect of your business? The many different types of people that I have to interact with daily; restaurant teams, restaurant executives, professional consultants, media, government officials ….and most of the many different consumers
Bonus Round with Joe Essa!
- Who is your biggest culinary inspiration and why? Wolfgang Puck because of his passion and commitment to quality in everything that he does
- Favorite restaurant you’d recommend? Croce e Trebbio in Florence, Italy because it has always made me feel so welcome, special and consistently serves some of the best regional dishes I have ever eaten.
- Your absolute must have kitchen item? My wife and a glass of good wine
- Your death row meal? Probably Bistecca alla Fiorenta with Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- Anything else? I will keep thinking!