Chefs Amanda Mack and Catina Smith encourage community with Crust and Cocktails

Catina Smith is known for her knack for bringing people together as much as she is for her cooking. Her networking and educational program, “Just Call me Chef,” was established in May of last year and is aimed at helping Black women chefs succeed in a largely white male-dominated field.  We’ve also written about her food expo, Taste Baltimore, which she called an opportunity for “chefs to start gaining that camaraderie and sense of community.”

Now, along with Baltimore-based cook Amanda Mack, she is working on a new series called Crust and Cocktails. Lots of different communities exist within this city — segmented off by things like race, class, and location — and it’s not always easy to break through from one to another. Smith says is event is designed to further expand opportunities for networking to include people outside of the culinary world. She says that’s the only way to overcome the boundaries that exist in Baltimore, and help create new things. Each event features a guest host, a signature cocktail, and a baked snack.

Smith talked to the Baltimore Beat about her second event, happening May 30. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)

How did Crust and Cocktails come to be?

[It began as] a conversation between Amanda Mack and I, wrestling with the fact that there were no networking events geared toward creatives. Also the fact that every networking event we went to we felt that it was stuffy, boring, and we walked away empty handed, with no real useable gems or true connections made. So of course with both of us being creatives and familiar with hosting events we decided we would take in that venture together.

What happens at these events?

Besides the mixing and mingling we have a discussion with a featured guest. For our first C&C we had Chef Will from All Aboard. He is an engineer by day but his side hustle and passion is cooking and fitness. So the discussion was about how to balance the two: our day job and our passion. We also had socialite Alysha January (of Discover Charm City) discussing collaboration.

Event planner and brand consultant Heidi Klotzman will be speaking at this event. Why did you choose her?

We chose Heidi because she is a force in the city. When she host events people come out in big numbers. Her name carries weight and we want to share with our group how can they can utilize her expertise and gain that same notoriety.

What’s your vision for Crust and Cocktails?

Our vision for C&C is for it to become one of the biggest and most impactful networking events for creatives. We have already seen collaborations happening as a result of the last event. We eventually will take this show on the road. But the cool thing is you don’t have to be a creative to attend. We need those admin folks to partner with us! Also people that are in the market for a creative service should attend. We have all kinds of people in the room. Chefs, makeup artists, wood workers, graphic designers, musicians, event planners, DJs, podcasters, and bloggers.

You are always busy putting together events, what drives you to do this work? Why do you think you’ve been successful thus far?

I absolutely love bringing people together. We need each other and food is usually that thing that gets us in the room, and once we are there it’s what we do with that time. So by me being a chef that’s half the battle. I am so excited about the buzz that’s going on in Baltimore. So much change and growth. One compliment I always hear from transplants is that the people in Baltimore are so warm and it’s easy to find your tribe. I truly enjoy facilitating opportunities for people to come together with a common purpose. I have been consistent that’s why I believe I have been successful and I am passionate about it and it’s very apparent. Plus I love to collaborate, the power of collaboration is real!

Crust and Cocktails will be held at athletic wear store FRS (515 Cathedral St.) from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$60. Learn more here.