Wolfgang Puck’s journey from tumultuous childhood in Austria to iconic chef

Puck has built an empire of 25 upscale restaurants worldwide, created a blueprint for the modern chef and changed the way Americans dine. “Wolfgang” is now streaming on Disney+.
6:30 | 06/22/21

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Transcript for Wolfgang Puck’s journey from tumultuous childhood in Austria to iconic chef
Are you ready to cook? Reporter: I am ready. I am super excited. I am ready to have you in my kitchen. Reporter: We are in the kitchen with a culinary icon. All we have to do is to get the temperature right and we are in good shape. Reporter: Wolfgang puck. Today, I am getting a lesson in schnitzel. Tell me about Weiner schnitzel and what it means to you. My mother was such a good cook. The smell was amazing. Reporter: Bringing back vivid memories. We used to make it with pork because veal was way too expensive. We pounded it nice and thin like a scalapini. Reporter: Reminiscing, something the 71-year-old has been doing a lot as he looks back on the empire he belt. 25 up scale restaurants worldwide, 80 caves and countless television appearances and cooking for the who's who of high society and Hollywood. 30 years in the game creating the blueprint for the modern chef and changing the way that Americans dine. Now he is unpacking it all in the documentary Wolfgang streaming on Disney plus. Disney is the parent company of ABC news. The doc follows him back to his hometown in Austria where his journey began. Growing up, the kitchen served as a refuge for a young Wolfgang. One of the first things you say in the documentary is that I don't like talking about my past. It is true for years and years I never talked about my past. I had a stepfather who was like a terrorist to me and to my sister. To my mother. He was drunk. He was abusive. Both physically and mentally. Reporter: Those raw moments brought to light. Was he a tough nut to crack? He wanted to go there because it was time. He wanted to leave his story and his legacy and something for his kids and young chefs to watch. His stepfather was telling him that he was worthless. He went out and proved him wrong. It is an inspiring story and something he was ready to share. Reporter: He is sharing it all, the intimate memories of early struggles. I was 14 years old and I could leave the house and start an apprenticeship as a cook. Three weeks into my apprenticeship, we ran out of mashed potatoes. The chef calls me over, screaming at me. He was as crazy as my stepfather, I think. Said you're fired. Get out of here. It is all your fault. I stood over this bridge, this big river. I looked down and said I am just going to jump in the river. Reporter: Thought about killing yourself. Yeah. I was standing on the bridge looking down. Looking down. And then all of a sudden, in my head like a light bulb went on and said I am going to go back tomorrow and see what happens. Reporter: A life-changing moment for the then aspiring chef whose persistence allowed him to return, and from there he never looked back. After a pit stop in France, he planted his roots in southern California. Work to prove himself he would open the world renowned spago in 1982. To my surprise from the first day it became an instant success. It was an amazing feeling. You have an 8:30 reservation and if lucky seated at 10:00. You dethroned the restaurant king in America at that time. You said it really well. In the old time the chef was always behind. Nobody knows the chef's name. When we opened spago, the kitchen was in the dining room. We had an open kitchen. When people came in, I waved at them, hello. I said I found this fish today at the fish market. That way we have nothing to hide. The customer could see what is going on. Put it on the fire. We need for 20 meatballs. I am going to go in the dining room, okay. Reporter: With spago, Wolfgang changed what the possible meant for a chef. He brought the chef into the limelight as someone to be talked about and written about. You can be both a TV star and a chef at the same time. Reporter: He directed iconic food projects capturing Wolfgang was a treat in itself. He is on the move. He is the director of his many restaurants. It is a little bit intimidating to come into his space. His restaurants are incredibly busy. Things get loud and intense. It is wild. It is fun. Reporter: Beyond his celebrity, the documentary highlights the icon's relationship with his family. Busy during his kids' childhood, Wolfgang is now making up for it, cooking side by side with his son who is following his footsteps. I started to work at spago as a 13-year-old, peeling potatoes. Seeing him there as the leader was amazing for me to watch as a Folks, enjoying ourselves over here? As a younger chef, I think I was so absorbed in my profession of becoming successful that I neglected my duty as a father. But now it is a great thing to work with my son in the business. And I think that for a father, there is nothing better than seeing your kid successful.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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