Omi

We love your choice of a mango margarita at Le Colonial.

It’s the best. It was the first thing I tried here and it’s my go-to cocktail, I love it. I chose Le Colonial because I moved to Chicago 17 years ago and it’s the first place I came to on the first night. I’ve been coming here ever since.

You’ve said that you’re interested in what drives people, so what drives you?

What mostly drives me is—Wait, timeout. This is a total timeout.

[Server brings over our drinks]

See! This is why I like this drink so much, there’s fresh mango and a handsome guy comes and serves it to us!

We’re on board now. Cheers!

I used to be in the restaurant industry but now I get a good combination of everything. Food does drive me. Our clients drive me. I get a lot of energy from being around other people, like being with you guys right now, it all drives me. I love people. I don’t think I could ever be the type of person who works from home or isn’t social. What’s fun about my job is that I get to spend a lot of time with chefs and our clients. I get to go to a lot of food tastings and a lot of events. It’s not always as glamorous as everyone would think but it’s fun.

What are some of the unglamorous moments?

When I was in the restaurant business I used to joke because people would say, “Oh, your job is so glamorous!” I would be all dressed up but I’d also be in the back running the dishwasher. I really honed my skills of busing tables! Even with PR, there is so much behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t realize. We work day and night, we are on our feet stuffing goodie bags and there are a lot of other things that go along with the job. But it is really fun and when we can show great results for our clients it really is worth it.

Where were you at in your career when you decided to make the move into public relations?

I left the restaurant business and I started working at XA. I took a little sabbatical and kind of figured out what I wanted and was consulting. I started at XA to build their event program. We do a lot of great events all over the country. Bravo TV network is one of our biggest clients, USA Network is a client now. But back then Chicago was really trying to build this event business. I kept getting all these calls from people asking if I could do their PR. I was like, “Okay!” I had never really done PR formally. When people do a career change I always support it because when you have a passion for something, even if you have never done that something before, you can still do it! I had a hospitality background. I had done some PR at Wolfgang Puck and Spago so I had definitely had a hand in it but when I started at XA I was hired to just do events and it just sort of evolved into PR.

Your whole life and career centers around being out and at events around the city. Are you ever just exhausted and wish you could stay home?

All of the time! I’m tired all the time. I definitely have some tricks for not looking tired. At least I try to have some in my back pocket. It has a lot to do with makeup. I’m a big fan of the eyelash curler and really good eyeliner. I definitely have a good foundation mixture down. I think a good way to get ready for the night is to go home first; I don’t go straight from work. I live and work in the same building so I have the opportunity to go upstairs, freshen up, change and kind of just get a fresh start for the night.

So you live in the Hancock building?

Yes! It’s fun. I didn’t think I’d like to live and work in the same building but I was actually looking for a new apartment and the girl who was helping me said, “I have this great apartment for you, it fits all of your requirements, but I don’t want to tell you where it is before we go look at it,” and I’m like, “Okay! Where do I meet you?” She said, “Just meet me outside of your office.” And literally it’s 10 feet from the entrance to the office to the condos so it was really funny. It makes life so much easier.

You have a well known last name.

Yeah! I was married to Wolfgang Puck’s brother. Then we divorced. Back in the ‘90s… I’m kidding… Oh, wait! It was [in the ‘90s]! Damn! But yeah we went to college together, we met in my junior year. He was a year younger than me in school but actually older. So we met and got married!

What was it like being part of a famous family?

It was fun! I mean, Wolf is really normal. He’s not pretentious and he loves food, which I really liked, because we’d always have such a good time just tasting food and traveling.

How was jumping back into the Chicago dating scene after a divorce?

I think any dating scene is just rough. I think for people that are busy it’s really hard to meet people because we’re off doing work related things or frankly, for me, when I’m not working I like to stay home or be with my friends or family so it’s hard to meet people. I think just meeting quality people in general in life is really hard.

Are you seeing anyone now?

Um, I don’t want to kiss and tell. How’s that?

What’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Well I broke my own rule. Last year we did Fashion’s Night Out at the 900 Shops and Brad Goreski was our celebrity guest—who is awesome, by the way—and I had gotten these amazing new neon green shoes and was like, “I’m going to wear these shoes all night!” What was I thinking? I always tell my team it’s fine to wear heels but wear something that’s comfortable because you’re going to be on your feet six, seven hours a night; just make sure you can handle it. I was literally dying. I made such a rookie move. I wore the most uncomfortable heels and I remember my girlfriends all went out afterwards and I had to take my shoes off and I just didn’t care. I was dying. I sold them on eBay the next day.

Your company throws a lot of celebrity hosted events. Has there been a celebrity you’ve met that wasn’t quite what you expected?

At Spago one of our investors brought in Carol Channing and I was obsessed with meeting her. I thought it’d be so fun. She was with a table of 10 and I went to say hi and she comes down from the bathroom and comes over to me saying, “Honey! Honey!” I thought she was going to like hug me or kiss me or something and she goes, “You’re out of toilet paper in the bathroom!”

Most memorable Chicago dining experience?

When I first came to Chicago I stayed at the Four Seasons the first night and came here [to Le Colonial]. Then the second night I went to Gibsons. Obviously I had heard all about Gibsons but I didn’t really know anything about it before then. It was definitely one of my favorite dining experiences because we didn’t get how it works and they came over with the meat tray and we ordered a huge steak, two sides and so much food.

What’s a piece of advice that always stuck with you?

My favorite job was when I worked in San Francisco at this place called Hawthorne Lane and my bosses were awesome, they basically taught me everything I know. I didn’t know anything before I worked for them. Because I was so young I really credit a lot of my development to them really mentoring me. One of my bosses said, “Amanda, everyone likes to hear the sound of their own name.” And it made so much sense because I was Maître d’ and our whole thing was teaching customer service. I feel service in this business and dining has changed so much since I worked in dining in the ‘90s and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I appreciate how restaurants are definitely more chef-driven and it’s very culinary and it’s more casual but I feel like a lot of the next generation coming around has never been to Le Cirque and haven’t dined at a lot of these fine dining restaurants. I really appreciated him saying that. I learned a lot about service from working with them … Everyone likes a shampoo and a blow dry. That’s what we used to call it. Which meant we need to make a fuss over them but it kept them coming back.

What would you tell 20-year-old Amanda?

Don’t spend so much money on shoes!

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

I really respect Pete Cashmore, who developed Mashable. I think that site is a great blog and a go-to for anyone in our business, tech and otherwise. He does a great job with social media articles and he has a great team … Obviously at work we’re really into social media and learning and for us—I was just joking with my team the other day about this—when we first started we were faxing press releases and calling people on the phone and now obviously it’s all changed … I’d really love to meet with him because he was really at the forefront and ahead of the social media curve. I’d love to be ahead of that curve as well so I’d like to have a drink with him. And he looks kinda cute in his pictures, so…

KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY

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  • Beth Hull

    What a laugh when reading about Amanda’s encounter with Carol Channing! Fascinating interview.

  • Peter Kleinschmidt

    An Amazing interview, which shows the enormous impact Amanda has on “XA”. Hard work, a skill that rewards those who possess it, but just important is the “down to earth” quality Amanda holds, attracting a great list of clients which she should be very proud.

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Omi