Feb 28, 2022
Brandon Walker, chef and owner of Essie’s Restaurant in Poughkeepsie, is making some of the most exciting and innovative cuisine in the Hudson Valley.
Brandon Walker, chef and owner of Essie’s Restaurant in Poughkeepsie, is making some of the most exciting and innovative cuisine in the Hudson Valley. At Essie’s, Walker has been thrilling guests with dishes inspired by his Caribbean and southern heritage, combined with his deep knowledge of classic European techniques and preparations.
Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) is pleased to announce Walker’s new role as a member of the Advisory Group for HVADC’s Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) program. CDFI is an exciting new Business Technical Assistance (BTA) and funding resource dedicated to equitable investment in new and growing farms and food businesses. Walker’s experience as an entrepreneur in the diverse regional culinary community will be extremely valuable to the board.
“I’ve had great relationships with local farmers over the years,” Walker said. “This program is really important for farmers and any food business because when they’re starting out they don’t have a lot of resources. HVADC gives them the opportunity to help develop a plan.”
Walker grew up in Brooklyn before attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He said his college experience opened his eyes to all the Hudson Valley had to offer to chefs and food business entrepreneurs. He said the connection between farmer and chef was like nothing he had experienced before.
After graduating Walker honed his skills at number of notable restaurants in New York, with an eye towards gaining experience in many different types of world cuisine. He cut his teeth at Oceana, Tribeca Grill, BLT Prime, and Park Avenue Café, just to name a few, but when it came time for him to plan his own restaurant he knew he wanted to move back up to the Hudson Valley. Walker founded the restaurant group B&L Hospitality in 2014, and opened Essie’s in 2016.
“All of us at HVADC were so pleased when Brandon agreed to join the CDFI Advisory Group,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Deputy Director. “His professional knowledge and dedication to the Hudson Valley and our unique food culture will be an asset to this important program.”
As part of the CDFI Advisory Group Walker says he is happy to be able to help farms and food startups succeed, especially those from underserved, racially diverse communities. He said he is pleased that the government-funded program recognizes historic racial bias in the lending field and is built to foster a more diverse program.
“When I got started I didn’t have a resource like this,” Walker said. “I feel like in anything we do, we need to afford people the ability to live out their dreams. The big question is always, why did it take so long? But now that it is here we need to move forward. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Walker’s nonprofit work, including preparing meals for the hungry at Essie’s during the pandemic, the business sense that has made his restaurant a success, and his deep affection for the region and community make him a great addition to the HVADC’s CDFI advisory team.
Additional information about the Business Technical Assistance provided through HVADC CDFI program may be found at https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls and funding information at https://www.hvadc.org/loans-and-grants.