How do you keep 1,500 power players well-fed and happy on Hollywood's biggest night? No one knows better than Wolfgang Puck, who has been catering the Governor's Ball—traditionally stars' first stop of the night after the Oscar ceremony—since 1994. Winners Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale were among last night's guests; the spread included sushi stations, h'ors d'oeuvres like mini kobe sliders and smoked lobster tacos and pan-roasted Dover sole (a nod to the inevitability of The King's Speech sweep, perhaps?)
So how has Puck managed to keep this gig for so long in a notoriously fickle town? He pays attention. "Most of the actors we serve at the Oscars also come into our restaurants," says Puck, who created this year's menu with chef Matt Bencivenga. "So we know what people like and don't like and we also know who has a special diet and who is a vegetarian." Especially important this year, when vegan Best Actress Natalie Portman had the option of vegetable paella with saffron, white wine, chilli and parsley.
As far as quality control for such a large group, Puck says organization—and impeccable ingredients—are key. "Just like with a small group of diners, you need to start with the best products—nothing we use is precooked," he says of this year's menu, which included oysters, caviar, crab, and his signature spicy tuna tartare served in sesame miso cones. "Then you need the right professional chef who can execute the dishes—you need to have a good organization with the right people behind you. People you trust to move forward."
But some things Puck refuses to mess with: As in years past, each guest got his or her own gold-dusted chocolate Oscars for dessert. Hopefully that made Annette (sorry girl, you were robbed!) feel a little better.
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1