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Lesson #2: Keep it Simple
Indeed, for over 25 years, people have kept coming back and telling their friends. It is the casual yet sophisticated nature with which Puck approaches all of his businesses that has endeared him to the American public as well as his culinary peers. His priority has always been on creating simple, innovative and tasty food and to share that with as many people as possible. Everything beyond the food is an afterthought. “The design is really the backdrop to great good and great service,” he says. “It is the happy customer who makes the ambiance of the restaurant inviting and exciting. So I always believe great food, great service and wonderful customers put into the right space, will make a successful restaurant.”
Many of the most elite chefs pride themselves on the presentation of their dishes, fussing over even the minutest of details and creating complicated and intricate displays to wow the diner’s eye. While Puck is too a believer in a nice presentation, he believes that good food is the most basic of requirements, and with that the presentation comes secondary. “I really believe food has to look good by itself,” he says. “If you buy good, fresh green beans, you don’t have to line them up in a row or anything like that. Just put them out on a nice-looking plate.” Class and simplicity, but never pretension, he insists.
Part of keeping it simple for Puck means knowing one’s own limits. No matter who his client may be, Puck knows what will and wont work for an event and won’t succumb to pressures to create extravagant dishes that are simply not feasible. “We could do almost anything for a smaller party,” he says. “For example, with a party of 100 I can do a chocolate soufflé.” But, for the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball, for which he has been the official caterer for 12 consecutive years, “I’d say, ‘Forget about it.’”
Puck’s commitment to innovate and create exciting new recipes is never overrun by his desire to maintain the minimal style for which he has become famous. He remains determined to bring diners “a mixture of things they are familiar with, and new things, too.” But, in the end, having a simple and reliable product is what Puck has proven will keep the masses coming back for more. No gimmicks, no fancy advertising – simply good food.
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