Thomas J. Kaplan

Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group

As Senior Managing Partner of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Tom Kaplan has worked alongside master chef Wolfgang Puck for nearly 32 years in the development and operation of his world-renowned restaurants.  His responsibilities range from overall business management, company expansion and design supervision, to marketing and philanthropy for the company’s 20 domestic restaurants as well as restaurants in Singapore and London and soon Dubai, Doha and Bahrain.

Raised in Stamford, Connecticut, Kaplan relocated to Los Angeles in 1980 after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Bowdoin College the same year. With a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Visual Arts and a coordinate major in Environmental Studies he set out to pursue a career in architecture.  After a short stint with a Beverly Hills architectural firm, he switched gears and joined Croissants USA as a designer and manager of their small chain of fast food stores. The iconic restaurant, Ma Maison, later acquired the company while Wolfgang Puck was the executive chef and partner.  It was then the two men met and established what has become a very close and successful working relationship spanning four decades.

In 1982, Kaplan joined Spago upon its opening in West Hollywood and ten years later relocated to Las Vegas to launch a second Spago that pioneered and revolutionized fine dining in the desert.  Wolfgang and Kaplan have grown the company from several individual restaurants into a collection of restaurants known as the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. In addition to Spago, brands include CUT, Postrio, Lupo, WP24, Five Sixty, Source, Chinois, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Wolfgang Puck Steak and Wolfgang Puck American Grille. Over the years Kaplan has nurtured key strategic partnerships with luxury hotel brands and major casinos such as the Four Seasons, Dorchester Collection, Ritz Carlton, Las Vegas Sands and the MGM Resorts Group.

Since 1999, Kaplan has been a Director of the Las Vegas-based Animal Foundation and Board member of the Las Vegas Art Museum.  In 2010, Kaplan joined the Board of Directors for the Council for a Better Nevada which is made up of key city leaders that develop solutions to create a sustainable and prosperous community. In 2011, Kaplan was nominated to join the UNLV Foundation Advisory Board to assist in enhancing the quality of the University and strengthen its mission of teaching, research and public service.  Also in 2011, Kaplan became a member of the prestigious Brookings Institute Metropolitan Leadership Council which is a network of business, civic and philanthropic leaders that act as financial and intellectual partners of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program (Metro Program). The Metro Program provides decision makers with cutting-edge trend analysis, research and policy ideas that empower metropolitan areas to compete and prosper. Kaplan also served as the Vice President of the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation for nearly 30 years, benefiting the Los Angeles Chapters of Meals on Wheels which successfully raised over $10 million.

His extensive commitment to charitable endeavors and the betterment of the community led him to become inducted in 2003 to the first group of the Las Vegas Dozen which honors men in the Vegas Valley for their roles in business and community involvement.  In 2011, Kaplan was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by Greenspun Media Group’s publication Vegas Inc at its inaugural Angel Awards. He was named Nevada Restaurateur of the Year by the Las Vegas International Hotel & Restaurant Show in 2005 and one of the “50 Most Influential” in Nevada by In Business in 2008.

It is ironic Kaplan would come to lead one of the most successful restaurant groups in the country since as captain of his high school and college wrestling teams for more than 9 years, he had to maintain a very strict diet staying 20 pounds below his normal weight!  To compete with the rigors of the hospitality world, Kaplan enjoys running, cycling, skiing, and hiking locally on Mt. Charleston and in the Red Rocks. His passions include art, architecture, music, and travel all shared with his wife Elizabeth and son Austin.