Food for Thought
How UHD Gave One of Houston’s Most-Popular Food Writers the Tools for Success
By Holly Beretto
Becoming a food writer and podcaster was definitely not part of Eric Sandler’s 2012 plan. Following graduation from high school, he headed to college with his sights set on being a lawyer. “My mother is a retired lawyer, several of my cousins are lawyers, so that’s definitely where I thought I was headed,” he said.
When he got to college, however, he wasn’t quite as ready to be as he thought.
“That’s only a recent realization,” he explained. “Back then, I don’t think I had enough self-awareness to know I maybe just didn’t have the maturity yet.” So, he dropped out and came home to Houston.
He worked for a legal-adjacent startup but was laid off when the company folded. That was when he began to see that advancement wasn’t possible without a four-year degree. As he started researching higher education options in Houston, something about UHD struck him. “As I walked around the halls, I felt like there were students like me,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was the old guy on campus.”
UHD accepted his AP class credits from high school, along with his college credits and some other test scores. After he saw that he could finish his bachelor's in about a year, he enrolled in the fall of 2011 and majored in Interdisciplinary Studies, taking classes in all sorts of subjects, including meteorology, public speaking, and history.
About halfway through his courses at UHD, however, Sandler, still hoping to become a lawyer, was hired as a food writer for Eater Houston.
“That was almost by accident,” he said. “Some of my friends who'd seen my posts on message boards or the occasional piece in the Houston Press encouraged me to apply.” After working as a writer while he finished his degree, Sandler graduated in December 2012, and he credits the school for giving him solid building blocks.
“It was very much the place I needed to be at that point,” he said. “The faculty are great. They care about teaching, and they care about their students. And the time I spent taking classes in communications has been so helpful.”
Today, Sandler is the food editor for CultureMap Houston, and he hosts a podcast called 'What's Eric Eating.' Once a month, he also appears on Houston Public Media’s radio show “Houston Matters” to chat with other foodies about Houston's food and restaurant scene as part of a recurring segment called “The Full Menu.”
Needless to say, he did not become a lawyer.
“I took the LSAT, that's as far as I got,” he said. “When I started at UHD, I had no idea I'd do the things I'm doing now. That I'd be on the radio, occasionally pop up on TV and all the other things I've been able to do. But in every stage and aspect of my career, I'm using things I learned at UHD.”
Photo by Emily Jaschke
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.