Business is cooking as students, staff and faculty flock to Ackerman Union to get a taste of the culinary creativity of Wolfgang Puck. The acclaimed chef’s newest restaurant, which opened Sept. 18, is located in the south-southwest corner of the first floor, next to Rubio’s.
The newly opened Wolfgang Puck Express in Ackerman Union offers artisanal food in a bistro setting.
"It’s a Wolfgang Puck Express, but it’s designed more like their bistros," said Cindy Bolton, director of ASUCLA Restaurants, which struck the licensing deal for Wolfgang Puck to operate on campus.
The decision to lease the space to the well-known restaurant chain was made after extensive consultation with various campus constituents, said Bolton, who added that addressing long-standing student interest in having an on-campus restaurant where they could enjoy a glass of beer or wine was also a deciding factor. The UCLA Faculty Center is the only other location on campus that serves alcoholic beverages.
"We’d been searching for a way to respond to this demand in a responsible manner," said Bolton, adding that Wolfgang Puck management will be strictly enforcing all rules and regulations related to the sale and consumption of alcohol. "We believe that UCLA staff and faculty will also be pleased to have this as an option."
The restaurant does not yet have its beer and wine license; however it is pending and will soon be finalized.
Among the menu items are artisanal pizzas, salads and sandwiches, as well as Wolfgang Puck classic recipes like pesto chicken paillard with crispy potatoes, arugula and cherry tomatoes; cavatappi chicken alfredo; and roasted salmon with broccolini and cauliflower puree, just to name a few, said Lesley Whitten, vice president of worldwide operations for Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc.
"Our offerings are delicious and use only the finest ingredients and all at a very approachable price point," said Whitten, adding that the service style will be slightly different from other concepts dining options at UCLA. "Our guests will place orders at the registers, then take a seat in our dining room or patio. When the food is ready it will be served on China plates and with real silverware."
There is also a "grab and go" area, with packaged sandwiches, salads, bottled beverages and snacks, for those who don’t have time for a sit-down meal.
The restaurant also features a 3,400-square-foot outdoor patio with seating for about 50 guests. Final touches on the patio are currently being made, and that space will soon be open to customers.
"It’s a really nice outdoor area that I know customers will enjoy," said Bolton.
UCLA’s Wolfgang Puck Express will be open weekdays from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. It will be closed on Sundays. Business hours will, however, be extended on weekends when major sporting events are held on campus, said Whitten.