This holiday season, we’re grateful for our team and are excited to spotlight one of our incredible front-of-house talents! Meet Lauren Wright, Ecco’s amazing server and trainer who recently celebrated two years with us. Get to know more about her in today’s #FGRFamily spotlight below.
How long have you been with FGR?
A little over two years and I’m never leaving!
What is your role at Ecco?
I am a closer, trainer, server and currently training for bar.
Where did you grow up?
I lived in Ohio until I was 10 years old and then we moved to Marietta and I lived there through high school. I went to college up in Indiana and then came back down to Atlanta six years ago.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I have two that I love very much. First, we always have Brach’s chocolate covered peanuts sitting out at Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to snack on throughout the day. The tradition came from my grandparents and has become very precious to me since they passed away. The second tradition is that on Christmas Eve, we make a bunch of yummy, snack-y foods, sit around and play cards and board games together as a family. It’s special.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2020?
I just got a rowing machine for my house and it really helps me with my mental health and every aspect of my life. It’s not necessarily a resolution, but something I’m currently doing and want to continue. I’d also like to find a therapist and start work that I need to do.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Night owl 100%. I usually go to sleep around 2 a.m. at the earliest. Since I work dinner service, I don’t have to be anywhere until late afternoon, so I still get a lot of sleep.
What’s your morning routine?
I’ve been trying to participate in mornings more, so I usually get up between 10 a.m. and noon. I wake up, drink some coffee with my two perfect cats, get in a workout on my rowing machine and spend some time in the sun. I recently listened to a podcast that stated almost all Americans are vitamin D deficient and it really stuck with me. It affects your sleep, mental health, weight, etc. so I try to get out in the sun before coming to work.
How often do you work at Ecco?
I prefer to work five nights a week, but sometimes four. When I’m not at Ecco, I have a part-time job landscaping that I love.
Where was the last road trip you took?
I recently went to Louisville, Kentucky, where my father’s family is originally from, with my parents and older sister. We went up there for one of my favorite cousin’s wedding. We also visited my younger sister who lives up there with her husband and kids.
How do you take your coffee?
I just recently figured out that cream really does the heavy lifting in a coffee situation and I was putting too much sugar in because I thought it’s what made it the way I like it. I like to keep hazelnut creamer in my house. My coffee has to be Café Bustelo. I’m very brand loyal.
What are three things on your bucket list?
- I’ve been very lucky with how much travel I’ve gotten to do and was fortunate to go to India last summer. I haven’t been to Africa, South America and Asia, so would love to explore these places.
- Live and work on a self-sustaining farm / homestead. I have six acres waiting for me in Kentucky, where I would love to live in 10-15 years. When people ask what I want to be when I grow up, I say “farmer!”
- Be in a position to prioritize mental health and happiness above work and money. I would like to create that opportunity for myself.
If you had to be on a reality TV show, what would you choose?
Last Comic Standing. I love to laugh and have really funny friends, but I’ve never been a comedian. If I had to be on a reality show, it would be that.
If you could live anywhere in the world for one year, where would you go?
I love London; it’s my favorite city that I’ve traveled to. I’ve also heard amazing things about Goa, India. I’ve never been, but a ton of Buddhists, yogis and spiritualists live there and it’s right on the ocean.
What is your favorite Fifth Group restaurant outside of Ecco?
I really love Lure. I think their cocktail program is excellent and their food is creative and delicious. My favorite Fifth Group family that doesn’t work here, works there. And I love their oyster happy hour!
What food do you crave more than anything?
Sushi. My mom also makes this amazing casserole called “Progresso Chicken.” It’s cheesy, gooey and served over rice and is so good! I think about it a lot. My mom is a very high energy person and we get together once a week for a dinner and she always brings my favorite dinner.
Walk me through the perfect order at Ecco, from appetizer to dessert.
The entire meal would be served family-style for five or more people. I’d start with our “Long Live The Queen” cocktail because it’s amazing and refreshing. The first course would be the fried goat cheese because it really is that good, charred Spanish octopus, the short ribs, a chef’s selection board, olives, almonds and lots of focaccia. Our housemade focaccia is delicious! Next, I would do a salad course with both our Georgia baby lettuces and farro verde. We would probably need two of both.
For wine, I would want to have vinho verde from Portugal. Similar to txakolina, in the way that it’s slightly effervescent, it’s on the border of being bubbles. It’s a really young, inexpensive wine but one of my favorites. We would also have an Angela Estate pinot noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon. It’s the first wine that I truly identified the tasting notes of when I was learning about wine. I would also have Vina Alberdi, a Rioja from Spain. That way, we would have a medium-bodied, a light-bodied and a white on the table for everyone to choose with each course.
Next, I would do a pasta course with our pappardelle, gnocchi and campanelle, followed by swordfish, porchetta and steak frites with a side of English peas. I would choose all of our pastries and pistachio, olive oil and lemon ricotta gelato for dessert with a double espresso and either a 20-year tawny port or our “Irish Goodbye” with warm, caramel-y notes.
I know I sound ridiculous but seven people could eat this!
If someone was coming to Atlanta for 24 hours, what would you recommend they do?
Start off with coffee at Octane on the Westside, hike Arabia Mountain (it’s only 20 minutes away from the city), lunch at South City Kitchen Midtown, visit the High Museum, drinks and dinner at Ecco and a local music or arts show. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a Monday, Lola’s Jams at Northside Tavern is the best. It’s the best live music I’ve seen in a longtime. Also, late night snacks and cocktails at Octopus Bar in East Atlanta Village and then dancing in EAV or MJQ.
What is your favorite part about being in the FGR family?
There are innumerable parts and stop me if I go on and on, but my number one is the value, care, consideration and energy that the company puts into their staff. They care that we’re happy, healthy and fulfilled in our work life and it shows. I also feel genuinely blessed to be working under general manager Chris Barron and chef Brent Banda.
Chef, who we call “work dad,” really cares about us and the food. He’s dedicated to excellent sourcing and execution. I feel lucky that he is the first chef I’ve worked with at a restaurant of this caliber and he has amazing hair (no really, he does!).
Chris started two weeks before me. I struggled when I first got here; I had never done anything like this. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my past restaurant jobs, but I came into this purposely knowing it would be a challenge. It took me a long time to get good at this and Chris was always in my corner the entire time. He does that for everyone. Until you are hurting the team, restaurant or concept, he wants you to succeed. He is the best manager I’ve ever had.