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Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck confesses: 'I didn't know I was that fat'

Newly slim Wolfgang Puck details how he dieted.
Newly slim Wolfgang Puck details how he dieted.
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Ever looked at a photo of yourself from years ago and felt shocked by your appearance? Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck knows how you feel: Now slimmer, he admits that he didn't realize how much weight he had gained until a friend showed him his photo. His reaction? "I didn't know I was that fat!" he told People magazine in a March 27 interview.

Wolfgang vowed to transform himself after that wake-up call to start counting calories. He began an exercise program, and gave his personal menus a makeover to keep the flavor and lose the fat. After shedding 25 pounds, Wolfgang has authored a book about it that includes his recipes, diet and exercises: "Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy: Light, Delicious Recipes and Easy Exercises for a Better Life" (click for details).

And he admits it wasn't easy to shed the weight: He devotes his days to making food taste fabulous. (You can sample the results yourself by making the Prosciutto Pizza recipe below.)

"Working in the kitchen is a hazard because you can eat and drink whatever you want," he reflects.

But by changing his recipes to incorporate more low-calorie foods, such as using arugula and melon, Wolfgang has succeeded in providing a way for everyone to shed pounds without sacrifice.

As an example of how to add flavor to food without calories, he uses aged balsamic vinegar.

"We all love it in my house, even my kids, and the acidity and sweetness will enhance pretty much any dish," he advises.

But don't skip the workouts because you're feeling smug about your diet, says Wolfgang.

"There’s really no excuse for not exercising and you don’t need to go the gym with all those big machines — I put a mat on my floor and jump rope, do my push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, all right in my living room," he reveals.

And at 64, Wolfgang is thrilled at returning to his favorite sports.

"Now I can go skiing with my older boys again and beat them on the slalom. I can play tennis on Maui for an hour in the heat without sitting down. So now I’m 64 years old and I ski better and play better tennis than 15 years ago," he said proudly.

The following recipe showcases Wolfgang's use of low-calorie foods such as arugula and balsamic vinegar. Get more of his recipes and diet tips, plus exercises, in his book "Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy: Light, Delicious Recipes and Easy Exercises for a Better Life."

Prosciutto Pizza Ingredients

Serves 8

  • Whole wheat yeast dough (recipe below), formed into 4 equal balls
  • ½ cup light sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, drained and thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup melon, cut into ¼-inch cubes (optional)
  • ½ cup packed baby arugula leaves
  • 2 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar

1. Place a pizza stone or baker’s tiles on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Dip a ball of dough into flour and shake off excess.

3. Place the ball on a clean, lightly floured surface and start to stretch it out, pressing down on the center and spreading the dough into an 8-inch circle with a slightly thicker rim. (If you find this difficult, use a small rolling pin to help, and then pinch up the rim.) Repeat with other dough balls.

4. Brush each circle with the pesto, staying within the rim. Evenly distribute the fresh mozzarella slices on top.

5. Using a floured pizza paddle or rimless baking sheet, transfer the pizzas to the stone or tiles. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is nicely browned, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and drape the prosciutto on top.

6. Dot the prosciutto with melon cubes, scatter the arugula leaves on top and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

7. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into slices. Serve immediately.

Whole Wheat Yeast Dough

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1½ cups lukewarm (80°F) water
1 tbsp. honey
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
1¾ cups whole wheat flour, divided
1½ tbsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and stir together the yeast, water, and honey until the yeast has dissolved.

2. Stir in 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour just until a soft, loose dough forms. Cover with a clean towel and set aside for 20 minutes, ideally in a warm room.

3. Add the remaining all-purpose and whole wheat flours (¾ cup of each), salt and olive oil to the loose dough. Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook and mix on the second-lowest speed for 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing on medium speed until the dough looks well-developed and elastic, 8-10 minutes more.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

5. If making pizza, divide the dough into 4 equal balls. On a floured work surface, work each ball with clean hands by pulling down all around its sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball, repeating this four or five times to form an even, compact ball.

6. On a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under your palm until its top feels firm and smooth, about 1 minute. Cover the balls with a damp towel and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes. (If desired, you can wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Remove from the refrigerator and let the dough come to room temperature before using.)

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