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In Community with: Quinn Rose Levine and Amy Hess from Quinnie’s

By Eimy Figueroa

Introducing our new series, In Community, where we speak with the folks behind some of our favorite local shops and restaurants. In our first of the series, we’re speaking to Quinn, the creator behind Quinnie’s café and market. In this interview, Quinn and her Chef de Cuisine Amy discuss their love of hosting, and the value of bringing people together.

Photos taken by Simon Burstall
Journal | #MINNAatHome

At the Table

In Community

In Community with: Quinn Rose Levine and Amy Hess from Quinnie’s of the Hudson Valley wearing the MINNA Grid Apron in Indigo and the MINNA Utility Apron in Hibiscus
Photos by: Simon Burstall

What’s your name? Tell us about yourself.

QUINN: I consider myself a host. My love language is cooking and hosting friends and family which slowly grew into my career. My all time favorite pastime is singing karaoke, especially when it is hosted by Sing the Hits with Amanda :)

AMY: I’m a Chef - for 16 years…I love food as art and a gift. Food inspires and comforts. Food celebrates. I’ve always loved that and it brings me joy on a daily basis. “Food feeds the soul” is truth and I aspire to share that every day.

How did you get started? What inspires you?

QUINN: I actually was a total theater kid growing up. I loved performing on stage which led me to an acting conservatory in NYC. To make money, I got my first restaurant job as a hostess in the East Village at a bustling Mexican restaurant called Mercadito. I fell in love with the energy and pace. I made the decision to quit acting and go to culinary school in 2007. After school, I worked in kitchens briefly, but I was 22 years old and completely intimidated by kitchen culture, so I jumped back to where I felt confident as a hostess. I worked as a hostess until I had children and started a wedding planning business so I could work from home. All the while, I was constantly experimenting at home, cooking for family, hosting parties - that was my happy place. This all eventually led to Quinnie’s. A restaurant, where I like to imagine is an extension of my home. I’m inspired by the relationships formed through cooking, with close relationships to farmers to collaborations with other businesses.

AMY: I fell in love with food when I was young and finally had the balls to leave a budding career in non profit and go to culinary school when I was 30. I defied my father’s expectations of a corporate career- he wanted the best for me and always considered restaurant work “a level down” because he didn’t realize. I was going through a divorce and he wanted me to flourish on my own and was worried. I think once he knew that I could make a successful living doing what I actually loved, he was proud. I’ve never looked back.

How would you describe Quinnie’s ethos and values? How does seasonality come into play?

QUINN: Most of our produce and proteins come from local farms whenever possible. We strongly believe in supporting locally and sustainably. We work with farms such as MX MorningstarOverlook FarmsIronwood FarmKinderhook FarmNorthwind Farm and Grimaldi’s. Our bread is sourced from See and Be Kitchen and the focaccia is made in house. Good ingredients make good food.

AMY: I’ve been in “farm to table” restaurants most of my career. However, most restaurants tend to cut corners due to the costs. What drew me to Q’s was the mission to really draw from local farms as much as we can. And we do. When we opened, there were a handful of comments about pricing, because, well, buying directly from farms can be costly. But we feel better doing it this way. We have been very upfront about wanting to support local purveyors as much as we can and a year in, I think our clientele appreciates that.

Who do you typically share meals with?

QUINN: My husband, Simon and my two children Wylie and Oscar. We have a tight knit friend group including our neighbors, Nick and Gary, who we share meals with almost every week. My parents come to visit us almost every other weekend. So I would say, we host quite a bit!

AMY: I live alone at the moment, so daily, I cook for myself and find joy in that. As a new member of the Hudson community, I’m slowly making friends and cooking for them. I also have friends who come from the city and enjoy having meals and sharing the abundance of the farms here with them.

If you could have a meal with any three people, someone you know/don’t know/alive/dead, who would they be?

QUINN: This is really hard… I am having a hard time choosing between 4 people so here they all are…Anthony Bourdain and Ina Gartin. I love how Anthony loved food, culture and just the way he spoke and wrote, I’d love to have a late night out with him in the back alleyways of a city I have never visited. Ina just seems like we’d have a great time cooking together and having a few cocktails while doing so. Alanis Morissette, she is a goddess and her album is such a soundtrack to so many parts of my life. Isabella Rossalini, because I just think she is such a character, her entire life is so fascinating. I LOVE her performance art. Plus her instagram is the best thing right now.

AMY: My three choices would be… Julia Child, because her cooking has inspired me so much over the years and we share a love for France and French cooking.

Yoto Ottolenghi, also due to inspiration but his shear love of vegetables and taking them out of the norm.

My Grandmother Esther. She died when I was 17-long before I started my career or could be taken seriously as a cook. I was recently found and visited by a cousin (niece of hers) and she told me how much my grandmother loved to cook and break down complicated game animals. I wish we had an opportunity to talk and cook together as adults. I cherish the recipes she left behind even more, knowing this.

What does creating community mean to you?

QUINN: Creating a community to me, means to share with one another. To share resources, ideas, to have a village mentality when it comes to parenting as well. Surrounding each other with as many types of people, learning from each other, taking care of each other and helping one another.

AMY: Creating community is bringing people together and what better way than around food? Whether an extravagant meal in or out, working in a soup kitchen, feeding people in need…that’s what it means to me. Nourishment.

What 3 favorite places to be in community locally?

QUINN: When creating Quinnie’s I envisioned it to be a place to gather. We really wanted it to feel like it was always there for the community. We hope that Quinnie’s can and is a place where people feel welcomed, loved and comfortable enough to spend the day and be an extension of your homes.

Public School System!. My kids are in Germantown Central School and the feeling of community is ever present. Parents, teachers and the principal are all looking out for one another. There are so many resources available for children and parents who need the extra help.

I find walking around our local towns and speaking to shop owners to really ground me in a community. I love meeting new people and seeing what people are doing. I have been wanting to create a space where business owners can meet and talk about trials and tribulations and offer advice to each other. I feel like we all have so much knowledge and experience to share with one another.

AMY: Restaurants, soup kitchens/food banks, volunteering at local farms and as Quinn said, just getting out and about and talking to the beautiful folks around the area.

Thanks for stopping by Quinn and Amy!

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