2007/07/10

Who Pays For Wolfgang Puck's Wedding to Gelila Assefa?

BY JULIETTE ROSSANT

Wedding photo of Wolfgang Puck and Gelila Assefa on Capri, by Kevin Lubera for Joe Buissink

Is Wolfgang Puck using his ex-wife's money to pay for his wedding?

From People Magazine to the former host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Robin Leach, in his online Las Vegas column, the Media was watching Wolfgang Puck this weekend. After all, it was a time for weddings as comes around, oh, maybe once in a century. Wolf was on the island of Capri, Italy, marrying Gelila Assefa, girlfriend and mother of two of his sons. They exchanged wedding vows at 7:00 PM on 07/07/07.

According to Mr. Leach, guests came from all over the world: Australia, Thailand, Austria, Ethiopia, and America.

Mr. Leach notes that many of Wolf's co-workers were present:
Among those making the 8,000 mile round trip from Vegas was his restaurant executive team of Tom Kaplan, David Robins and Joe Essa.... Wolf’s executive chef partner Lee Hefner from Spago, Los Angeles who will be opening Wolf’s new CUT restaurant in the new Venetian Palazzo resort early next year was also in the wedding group.
This sounds more like a public relations opportunity for CUT than a wedding.

With all those partners and staff members on hand, the question is: will Wolf try to write off the wedding as a business expense?

Barbara Lazaroff And, if he does, won't that involve monies from ex-wife, still-current business partner and Puck empire co-founder, restaurateur, architectural designer, WCR co-founder, and mother of two more Puck sons, Barbara Lazaroff?

Why the media hype for a third wedding?

As Super Chef has noted in the past, much of mainstream Media seems to be getting sloppier and cheaper when it comes to fact checking (see previous article "Forbes Celebrity Chefs 2007: Food Network Heaven").

The story of Gelila Assefa's love affair with Wolf seems to have received some pretty heavy PR treatments, with little or no no fact checking. Check out the article in Harper's Bazaar about "Ethiopian-born designer Gelila Assefa" or another at Entertainment Tonight that uses the most common descriptor "handbag designer."

Look at the reports from this wedding. People states, "Puck and Assefa, 38, met in Los Angeles, where Puck first established Spago 25 years ago and where Assefa was studying." Mr. Leach states, "Wolf met the hotel public relations executive when he moved into the Peninsula Hotel in Beverley Hills following the breakup of his long marriage to designer Barbara Lazaroff."

Yet Mr. Leach's online reports have received a flurry of comments from critics that challenge either People's or his pretty pictures.

An anonymous commenter who was "at Wolf’s second wedding" on Mr. Leach's latest article states:
Gelila Assefa was answering the phones at Spago in 1997 and was NEVER a PR Exec at the Peninsula Hotel... She was sleeping with a very married Wolfgang Puck back then. She’s been written up for many professions but never the 'oldest' one... dig deeper like a good journalist and write that story. Many of us know it...
Commenters on a previous Leach article published on another website continue in the same vein:
Muna Deriane wrote:
"Gelila Assefa was not a hotel PR executive and they did not meet when he left his family and stayed at the Pennisula... Gelila was answering phones at Spago in the late 1990's and sleeping with a very married Wolfgang..."

Tom K wrote:
"Gelila Assefa was answering the phones at Spago... Back in 1997... Thats a good 6 years before your memory kicks in. Shame as you were present at many of the meetings as I recall..."

Robert R. Jones III wrote:
"I find it hard to believe that you would write an article stating that WP and Gelila meet at [t]he Peninsula Hotel. WE ALL know that they meet at Spago in the 90's. We all know that their "relationship" started soon after that. She [Gelila] never worked at the Peninsula Hotel and was never a PR manager for anyone but HERSELF, promoting her own career as expert home wrecker and opportunist. I have it on the best of confidence that she was the hostess who seated you at your favorite 'regular' table on several occasions."

Sondra Scerca, godmother to Puck and Lazaroff's sons, wrote:
"I was there... while she [Gelila] tormented and stalked Barbara and relentlessly called the house and hung up... pushing Barbara to confront Wolf... leaving clues, telling customers of her affair with Wolf..."
It seems there is quite a story behind the Puck-Lazaroff divorce that led to the Puck-Assefa wedding. Perhaps it was not quite as amicable as first reported (see The New York Times.)

Wolfgang Puck and Robin Leach

Let's not forget that when Wolf and Barbara celebrated their wedding very publicly back in 1984 at Oustau de Baumaniere, Robin Leach broadcast it on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (see Super Chef [Simon & Schuster 2004], pp. 7-48, wedding p. 17, summary of Barbara's contribution, pp. 46-47). Mr. Leach's broadcast helps explain the irate comments on his recent articles. In any case, it seems safe to assume, then, that when Barbara divorced Wolf back in 2003, Mr. Leach wound up in the Wolf camp of friends.

Live! Love! Eat! Eat! Love! Live!

As Michael Douglas once dished out deliciously as the dastardly Gordon Gecko in Wall Street (1987), "Greed clarifies, cuts through," so let's cut down towards the bottom line and examine deeper. At the heart of "l'Affaire Assefa" lies "Wolfgang Puck" – the brand, not the person. The problem Puck and fellow super chefs face is that their brands are based on them as personalities. Puck's corporate mantra "Live! Love! Eat!" (or is it now "Eat! Love! Live!"?) is light-hearted and family-friendly, whereas those in Puck's circles seem to know all too well that Puck's life with Gelila have not been very family friendly.

Perhaps Wolf's marriages should warn chefs and restaurateurs: never mix business with pleasure. Particularly since, as one commenter ("PeopleWatcher") archly wrote, "...The greatest chapter is yet to be written because just as Wolf cheated on his second wife, so will he cheat on his third..."

Stay tuned.

Related news:
CBS News, Entertainment Tonight, People, Reuters, UPI, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dallas-Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Florida Times-Union, Daily Citizen, Cleveland Leader, Akron Beacon-Journal, Raleigh News-Observer, Detroit News

Previous articles:

Wolfgang Puck
Puck + Mina Do Detroit: Naming Names
[GAP OF 14 MONTHS]
Celebrity Cooking Showdown
Wolf's Oscar Party: Menu & Food Photos
Wolf's Oscar Party: Prep Photos
Wolf's Oscar Party: Room Photos
Chef-Crashing Into Oscars
Wolfgang Puck on 'Las Vegas'
Wolfgang Puck: 'Vegas' TV Restaurant
Rob Kautz: Cursed to 99 Cents Only?
Fly Avion (Wolfgang Puck Included)
Applause for Gamal Aziz and Tom Kaplan
Iron Chef Pizza Wars: Batali vs. Puck
Todd English: Pots and Pans Pucked?
Wolfgang Puck: Eastern Empire
Wolf Want Meat: Wolfgang Puck Steakhouse
Iron Chef America: Running on Empty
Wolfgang Puck Inaugurates Washington
Wolfgang Puck Returns to Indiana
Coffee Puck: Heats in Your Hands
Fly With Wolfgang Puck Express
And Now Puck Paints, Two!
Wolf Wines & Dines, or Puck's Party
Euro Puck
Puck in a Box
Wolfgang Puck Examines the Examiner

Barbara Lazaroff
Requiem for Granita
Romancing the Stove - or The Way We Worked?

[Chefs & Branding - complete]

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17 Comments:

Blogger Aileen Bordman said...

Wolfgang Puck would stll be just a Chef behind
the line if not for the genious of Barbara Lazaroff, who does this man think he is !!!! - Aileen Bordman

9:07 PM, July 11, 2007  
Blogger DANNY said...

about time some real facts that make some sense. who really cares about these two? but why all the lies all these otherarticlesand blogs i was intrigued by the spicy coverup, there must be some sizzling details or why mix it all up? and i think all the 7/7/7 business is such stupid nonsense, but i think these two will need all the luck they get!

11:40 PM, July 11, 2007  
Anonymous tamara mathews,new york said...

You have real journalistic ethics, I am impressed considering your column is all about the glorification of the chef and yet you researched and corrected what seems to be a flagrant and tacky barrage of pr smokescreens. The chefs are as obnoxious as the celebrities now, above the rules, what? the boss and the employee, so pedestrian and risky and a bit funny too. the elegant hooplah for what? did he really need the press that badly, think not, it was the pushy tart, very old story. makes you wary of marriage doesn't it?

12:47 AM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous Lilly Smith said...

I was interested in all your excavating of info and went back and researched some of the original sources you took your info from, you are so right, wow lots of conflicting info. I never write into these blog spots. but I read your stuff, I love to cook, but I am really disappointed in Wolfie and and I guess as you have said some of the other chefs. This 'guys will be guys attitude' sucks. Why don't these wifes speak up or use the slicer dicer? Keep us posted for number 4 wife and his next two kids. What about the women chefs, do they behave like Britney and Lindsay? You could start a column or a show, the Secret Sex Life of Chefs. They seem to spend more time messing around than stirring these days.

3:03 AM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to the venemous untrue allegations made against me by an unconscienable author here who didn't have manners or bother to check with me for any comment whatsoever: I have no knowledge whatsoever of Gelila Assefa ever working at Spago and have no recollection at all of her walking me to my supposed "favorite" table. For the record any table at Spago would be my favorite table- and regrettably I dont get there enough to have a favorite!!! How absurd and petty. I'm just amazed people have so much hatred and hostility evilly boiled up inside them to react in this manner- robin leach

5:08 PM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding who is paying for Wolf and Gelila's wedding. Why all the investors of each of his restaurants will be, of course! The money will come from the management fees and profit splits they get. Not only has Wolfgang been manipulated by Gelila, he has and still is maniputlated by his three executives, David, Tom and Joe. They use their "restaurant research accounts" and American Express corporate accounts to go on exclusive vacations, pay for nannies, personal expenses, etc. How they get away with this, is that they ask Wolfgang for additional monies as part of their compensation package without Wolf knowing and seeing their entire compensation package as a whole. Shame on Wolfgang for not really having a grasp on how his earned money is really being spent. The best is his lastest executive Joe, who has made deals with vendors that have costs the restaurants thousands of dollars of unnecessary additional expense. Because Wolfgang is not a hands on executive of his own empire, it is easy to hide. The other two partners either don't know, as Joe is good at covering it up, or don't care. And lets not forget about the deals that the 3 partners do on the side as their own personal investments. They have the Wolfgang Puck accounting dept do the accounting for these ventures, which is additional items that the investors are paying for with no return on their investment. As long as the money keeps rolling in, everyone is happy. The other investors are just kept in the dark. Just like Wolfgang.

7:29 PM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous bejg said...

Contact Music (UK) states that Puck "brought his own catering team for the celebration" -- see article "Puck Ties the Knot"

10:13 AM, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bejg, who catered was never an issue: of course a chef would have his own folk cater! also, many reports noted this fact, starting with People. The issue, as this story investigates and as commenters have added to, is who is paying for the wedding -- and what more comes to the surface with a little professional digging...

10:26 AM, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Julia,
I have been a fan of Superchef for some time now. I found this article on Wolfgang Puck's wedding very interesting. However, Robin Leach souneded out right silly. As a journalist it is simply ridulous to say "venemous unture allegations" have been made against him. He also said he had "no knowledge whatsoever" of Wolfgang's new wife ever working at Spago. Before writing an article he should have checked his facts.His response sounded too personal for my liking. What was in this for him to be personally offended. His response should simply have been I checked out the new wife's background and here are the facts, ten minutes of research. Sounds to me he knows perfectly well when and where Mr. Puck met his new wife and I would assume by his defensive nature your other bloggers have their facts straight Sloppy journalism on Mr.Leach's part.
Also, if this woman did, in fact, meet Mr.Puck while he was still married and got involved with him it is clearly insensitive to call such comments petty and absurd. I am from a divorce family where an affair ended a marriage, a family. Although it happened sixteen years ago we are reminded at ever holiday, every birthday and family vacation that our family will never be together again as we should. One can move on from this but you never forget and you never know if the problems could have been worked out if not for the third party involvment. I would assume Mr. Puck's exwife has moved on from what I have read about her. Hatred and hostity have nothing to do with setting the record straight. They are just big words to distract us from the truth. Mr. Leach's undermining someone's involvment in an affair, the breakup of a family is an insult to the sacrament of marriage.
I would guess Mr.Leach is personal friends of Wolfgang Puck's which in that case he should leave the reporting to someone else.

4:03 AM, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous, you are right about financial malfeasance done by the executives. They get signing bonuses on all new ventures, whether they make good business sense or not. One of the latest executives did time for a felony. funny that a felon would be allowed to run a company or make business decisions. With all the "high fiving" the "boys" do over at Wolfgang Puck Worldwide.....someone from the investors side should look into these executives excesses. FOLLOW THE MONEY! FOLLOW THE MONEY! remember they are just restaurant managers that couldn't handle checking in the vegetables, so got bumped up via the "Peter Principle"

12:12 PM, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...what a bunch of haters most of you are posting here. There are 3 people who know exactly what happened in the marriage, every detail, and none of you are any of them. Tend to your own lives and let karma handle the rest for everyone involved.

12:36 AM, August 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all the hatred I'm reading, I wonder if it is because WP married an Ethiopian? Which I believe is the case here. If he married another WASP, I would not read so much hostility. Do we all remember when Dion Celine's husband was MARRIED when he met her at 14 years of age! Forteen years old!! He dumped his current wife back then and married Dion 4 years later.

1:34 PM, August 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the above comments. She is a BEAUTIFUL BLACK woman who got the guy and the JEALOUSY of whites comes out behind the smoke screne of hatred. Remember HE was married she was not. He's the one who took the vow. It's so AMAZING to me that no one says he was cheating but instead "She was sleeping with a married man" The jealousy of whites is what eats them up from the inside and has caused all of them to be on med's or meth!! Think of all the so-called Hollywood white women who have slept with someone else's husband and wrecked marriages even those of best friends!!

4:38 AM, November 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After spending time and meeting in an unbiased atmosphere Wolfgang, Gelila, Barbara and her boyfriend, I would like to say that all are remarkably civilized, as they must be with having a business together. I am not nearly as cordially where my husband's ex is involved.

As a white woman, I would like to comment on the above remark: baloney! It has nothing to do with what color Gelila is. She is a beautiful woman, and I do agree that it takes two to tango, and the tango NEVER involves a third person. It takes two people to make a marriage work, and when an affair is involved, it is never just one person's fault. The situation was difficult, especially for the children involved, and now there are four of them.

Marriage, and the failure thereof, isn't meant to be speculated on by anyone, other than the parties involved.

2:00 PM, December 11, 2007  
Blogger Juliette Rossant said...

The last four comments have veered further and further off topic.

Regarding WASPs and others, while Gelila may be Ethiopian, Barbara is Jewish -- which makes them both Semitic. So, please give the race issue a rest -- permanently! I will not publish any more of those.

Because Barbara and Wolfgang remain business partners, their divorce and his remarriage have impact that ranges beyond their private (albeit celebrity) lives.

The point of this article (not the outside comments) was to call into question the business practices involved in Wolf's marriage to Gelila. Did he use only personal monies or (also) business monies to pay for the wedding? If the latter, then some of that money was Barbara's.

And for anyone who cannot read between the lines, let me ask the question this article implied: if Wolf used business money (belonging in part to ex-wife but still-current business partner) Barbara to pay for his wedding to Gelila, then how else might he be misusing such monies?...

2:01 PM, December 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semitic? More like Spametic! Please do not have a conversation about Semitism, because religion is always up to the interpretation of the individual.

Stop it! The man met a woman, the woman met a man, they decided to begin a relationship. He married her. Who cares what occupation she had before she met him. He has no formal education himself. And, how much does Barbara have? Sounds like some bitterness. The End.

...and, the author is upset she is an Ethiopian woman = Jealousy (prejudice, too?). Not one person has talked about any of the many other restauranteurs who have divorced and re-married, not necessarily taking time off while the divorce process was taking place. Move on, people.

3:02 AM, January 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just happened to come here by chance after seeing Gelila interviewed at length on a recent CNN special AFRICAN VOICES about her, and the 30 minute interview painted a very interesting portrait of her, but the parts of her and Puck meeting and even him on camera with her, she says "When he first kisssed me that night at SPAGO after work, I knew he would be my husband!" -- i felt something weird in their relationship. The entire CNN piece seemed now like a real PR piece by some great PR spin people. OUCH. I see a divorce soon!

11:59 PM, September 06, 2009  

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