Puck, whose cooking combines classic French technique with a focus on seasonal and local ingredients, has been an iconic voice in California cuisine. Born in Austria, he moved to Los Angeles in 1975. In 1982, he opened Spago, the restaurant for which he remains best known. Today, he has 20 restaurants around the country.
The organization's Humanitarian of the Year honor went to Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who earlier this year announced that he will close his acclaimed eponymous restaurant after it celebrates its 25th anniversary in August. Trotter plans to return to school to earn a master's degree in philosophy.
Trotter was honored Monday for his work with children, including raising $3 million via The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation to help pay for needy students to attend culinary school. Trotter has said he has not ruled out opening another restaurant after completing his degree.
"All of us in this room that are interested in hospitality and gastronomy and service and cuisine," he said during Monday's ceremony. "But what's the point if you're not going to give something away? You can make a difference. That's the fun part."
The Beard Foundation also named its top regional chefs around the country: Bruce Sherman of North Pond in Chicago (Great Lakes region); Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken, N.J. (Mid-Atlantic); Tory Miller of L'Etoile in Madison, Wis. (Midwest); Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern in New York (New York City); Tim Cushman of O Ya in Boston (Northeast); Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce in Seattle (Northwest); Matt Molina of Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles (Pacific); Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Ala. (South); Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens, Ga., and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta (Southeast); and Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin, Texas.
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