One thing you immediately notice about Chef Ericka Lassair is her calm demeanor, a kind of “I can handle whatever life throws at me.”
Take for example, a worldwide pandemic.
A veteran food truck restaurateur, Lassair’s initial reaction to the city announcing a nearly complete shutdown of the restaurant industry was to look at it as a time for a little break and a chance to regroup. She figured businesses would reopen after a couple of weeks, and when that didn’t happen, she still refused to panic.
“And then I got a call from Chefs Brigade, and they said they were doing meals for the city,” Lassair says.
At first, she had no idea how big the New Orleans Covid Meal Assistance program was– by the time it ended, it would produce 3.7 million meals and feed more than 24,000 people. Lassair only knew that Chefs Brigade came around at the right time for her small one-person business when even she felt it was getting dicey. “It definitely helped to keep me afloat during the pandemic and beyond to this day,” Lassair says.
One reason Lassair is so serene even during the tough times is because she’s also innovative. She realized that in order for Diva Dawg to survive, she needed to expand her offerings. That’s when she started working on her new product line of Chef Diva Foods: Sauces and Spices.
Lassair’s plant-based etouffee sauce is gluten free and vegan, but her hotdog clientele probably could care less. They just know that it’s tasty and that it goes well with pasta, shrimp and grits, shrimp etouffee and many other dishes. She also created an etouffee spice, which delivers even more flavor to her signature sauce.
The etouffee sauce was already famous before Lassair started bottling it, and it made her a pioneer. When she began using it, she put it on her hotdogs. Diva Dawg fans couldn’t get enough of it and demanded she put it on french fries. That’s why her food truck now proudly boasts that it is “Home of the Original Etouffee Fries.”
When the meal program ended in mid-2021, Lassair admits that it was difficult because of the various Covid variant surges, but she managed to survive. She’s added catering to her list, and with an easygoing shrug, she says it’s been a good year so far.