Erica Morris, B.A.’92
A Passion for Food
By Amy Halloran, B.A.’90
Erica Morris is director of Special Events at Marcus Samuelsson Group (marcussamuelsson.com and foodrepublic.com). Samuelsson is a chef known
for his restaurants and cookbooks, and for promoting healthy eating.
s a communication major at the University
at Albany, Morris found that her minor in
theatre helped break her out of her shell, allowing her to take on different roles. “When you’re in the restaurant business, or any business where you’re dealing with clients, it helps to know that sometimes there’s a persona you
have to put on, and that’s okay,” said Morris.
A class in mediation and arbitration was another good tool for Morris as her professional life evolved from waiting tables to her current high-profile post, thanks to her insatiable curiosity and a passion for food.
While managing the front of the house for a restaurant with an open kitchen, she spent a lot of time surveying the dining room from the kitchen. Morris quizzed the chefs about what they were doing, and one of them suggested she attended the Culinary Institute of America. Once she graduated, she helped launch a restaurant, then talked her way into doing special events for People magazine. Her lack of magazine experience was seen as a potential deficit, but, she told her interviewers: “I’ve been running a restaurant where the kitchen could be on fire, and I’m out on the floor, looking at guests and saying, ‘Hi; how are you?’ Just doing the magic show every night.”
After four years at Time, Inc., Morris took a job in special events with New York Magazine. Two years later, she directed special events at Gourmet, the definitive food magazine. After the magazine’s surprising end, she joined Marcus Samuelsson Group, where she’s arranged events that allowed her to meet President Obama and former President Clinton.
“I’m on the other side of it now,” she said, explaining that the events department was always part of marketing in the media world. “While working at the magazine, I was constantly
creating and creating and executing sponsor opportunities, so there’s a lot of crossover in that way. I know what sponsors are looking for. I know the language and the way things are approached.”
Her career is full of highlights. When the Democratic National Convention held a fundraising dinner at Red Rooster in March, Morris served President Obama his dinner. Two months later, she met former President Clinton when the Clinton Foundation held an event there.
One of her favorite events, however, was helping a mother prepare her son’s graduation party. As “amazing” as the big-name events are, Morris noted, “when you do an event for the everyday person who is so appreciative of everything, you feel really good at the end of the day.”