Like many other restaurants in the Valley, Chef Brandon Walker spends at least 45 minutes every day with his team preparing for his outdoor dining set up, to ensure the Poughkeepsie community can stay safe.

What You Need To Know

  • Chef Brandon Walker is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park

  • Named after his grandmother, Essie's Restaurant was opened in June 2016

  • The restaurant is award-winning, being named Best in Hospitality by HV Mag's Best of Hudson Valley awards, in 2017

“We’ve been open for four years now, going strong, I really love cooking great food for this community,” Chef Walker said.

Named after his beloved Grandmother, Essie’s Restaurant is just one of many Black owned businesses in Poughkeepsie. With a 4.7 rating on Google Reviews, it is very clear that the restaurant is loved here.

Dishing one of their signature appetizers, Walker said COVID-19 has not affected their commitment to their customers.

“Despite the challenges we have right now in the world, we’re doing our best to still provide the community a great service, great food, great service and a wonderful experience,” he said.

Inside the kitchen, Chef Walker is making one of their popular appetizers, their crispy plantains. Just outside by the bar, Claire Secreto is preparing for her shift. She joined the staff just after Governor Cuomo gave the go ahead to reopen.

“It has been different, that's for sure,” Secreto said.

She’s been working in restaurants all her life. The community’s love for Essie’s makes the new normal, a little easier.

“Chef has ties to the community. When people come here, they all feel like they know Brandon,” Secreto said. “And it really feels like the rapport we have with the community is a very warm and supportive one.”

Walker says it’s important for him to be successful in business, so he can be an example to young African American kids.

“They can see the example so that way they can one day grow up and say you know what, I wanna own my own restaurant, I wanna be a designer, or I wanna be a lawyer and have my own firm,” Walker said.

In particular, a business that will leave an impact on people, the way his food has.