On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Kathryn Lott joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her role as the executive director of the Southern Smoke Foundation. A longtime friend of Southern Smoke co-founders Chris Shepherd and Lindsey Brown, Lott brings over 20 years of nonprofit experience to her position.
Southern Smoke evolved into a crisis relief organization after Hurricane Harvey, but the coronavirus pandemic thrust it into the spotlight. Lott explains how the organization has responded to the crisis both by staffing up to deal with a nationwide influx of applications and by staying true to its core mission of primarily assisting people with emergency medical and housing situations.
Sandler asks Lott to explain how celebrity chef David Chang's $1 million win on Who Wants to be a Millionaire has changed the organization.
"More than anything, it brought people that we hadn't reached to our application portal," Lott says. "One of our largest challenges is getting the word out so that people know we're there. What we started seeing were more cooks, more servers apply. Also, for whatever reason, and we're so glad this happened, more and more Spanish-speaking folks came forward."
The conversation touches on some of Southern Smoke's other initiatives, such as providing free mental health care for restaurant workers in Texas. In the coming weeks, the organization will offer advice about how to manage life during a crisis. Lott also aspires to develop education programs for children about the restaurant industry.
Prior to the interview, co-host Michael Fulmer joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Cherry Block exiting Bravery Chef Hall to launch a market in Katy and a new restaurant in Garden Oaks; the Taco Stand opening in The Heights; and Bishop Cidercade debuting in the East End.
In the restaurants of the week segment, the two hosts begin by sharing first impressions of March, which they visited during its lounge pop-up. They also describe a recent dinner at Weights + Measures, where chef Fernado Rios took over the kitchen after last year's change in ownership.