How it’s taken me so long to have one of my favorite people in all of Chicago as a CCF Loves feature is beyond me…but I guess I have to build up some anticipation, right? She was a foodie before the term foodie was even a thing — say hello to Amanda Puck!
HI AMANDA (yes I realize that sounds like an AA meeting but this is more like an FA meeting — foodies anonymous). I met Amanda when she was the VP at XA PR (and she also happens to be besties with former CCF Loves: Jim Wentzel & Lance Lawson of space519). Before I knew Amanda, she was the host of Check, Please! and now she’s the Director of Strategic Brand Development for Mariano’s (which is not only one of the best grocery stores you’ll ever step foot in, but they also throw one hell of an opening party!) Amanda is amazing at what she does, and is more fun than I’ll ever be, and if you don’t already know her, it’s about time that you do!
I am from Staten Island, NY, I lived in San Francisco and ended up in Chicago in 1996 to open Spago Chicago. Chicago has the best people, and now has risen to the best food town in America. I am here to stay and never looked back.
What are your top three favorite things to do in the city? (I assume all food related… ?)
Nico Osteria is our regular hangout. We love the bar team and the menu. We always try something new, but always share a rigatoni. And they taught us how to make the perfect negroni.
Chicago Gourmet is my favorite festival in Chicago. All the chefs are out and about all weekend long, and in the setting of Millennium Park…it can’t be beat.
My one must have of the year is a Weiner Schnitzel sandwich at the Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza. It has a short run during the holiday season, so I really make an effort to make a few stops to get my fix.
What’s the most memorable moment in your career so far?
The James Beard Awards (AKA “The Oscars of Food”) are in Chicago from 2015-2017 and Mariano’s is one of the sponsors. This year we created a Live Band Karaoke stage at the kick-off party, Chef’s Night Out, which ROCKED and everyone had a great time singing and dancing. We also served our own Truffle Parmesan Popcorn at the awards show. I even saw Marcus Samuelson grab a box. It was for sure an activation I, and the whole team, were very proud of.
Any words of advice for someone trying to make it in PR / branding?
Find what you are passionate about and follow it. I have always loved being around food, even as a kid, and that passion led me to the best team and brand in the world, Mariano’s. I have done it all from bartending to restaurant operations to consulting, and it has all prepared me for this next step in my career. Don’t get me wrong, I also love fashion, but a girl’s gotta eat!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This might be the hardest question I have ever been asked, but I am in a huge hot dog phase right now. Superdawg, Gene & Jude’s, Portillo’s, Weiner Circle. I love Kevin Hickey’s infamous Duck Fat Dog. I would like to complete a Hot Dog tour around Chicago. This is a big deal for me, being from NY I should be loyal to the toppings of sauerkraut and spicy mustard, but the Chicago Dog did steal my heart…maybe that’s why this city is a keeper.
If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try or just straight up food porn, be sure to follow @amandapuck!