Marta Ines Quintana, Founder, Havana Road Cuban Cafe and Artisanal Products
After a taste of Marta Ines Quintana’s cuisine, you would swear she’s been serving up dishes in upscale restaurants for decades. The Cuban-born Quintana — founder of Havana Road Cuban Cafe and Artisanal Products — has seen her recipes garner raves from grocery stores, TV shows, publishers, and customers at her Towson restaurant. But it was just three years ago that Quintana made a jump to running a culinary enterprise with revenue nearing $1 million in 2011 and on pace to exceed that in 2012.
Like many others, Quintana, 55, was hit hard by the recession in 2008. She was laid off as vice president of sales and marketing at Columbia’s Premium Health Services, a pharmaceutical distributor. She hunted around, but marketing jobs were hard to come by. After a frustrating, infuriating and fruitless job search, Quintana decided to return to her first love: food.
Her resume in the cooking field began and ended with catering her own wedding for 75 people in 1985. Regardless, she was certain she was making the right move. In early 2009 Quintana and her daughter, Ines Maria, made a series of cooking videos to post on YouTube.
“Back then I really wasn’t much into the whole YouTube scene,” Quintana said. But, “From there I received a phone call from Steven Schupak at [Maryland Public Television] and he said, ‘You’re a diamond in the rough.’ ”
Three years after that initial call, Quintana got a letter of intent from MPT for a bilingual cooking show, which is still in development.
Another break came when Quintana attended a dinner party in August 2009, where she met a representative from supermarket chain Whole Foods. He said if she could prepare five varieties of her sauces for him, that he would help her get a retail line into Whole Foods. She did, and her Havana Road Artisanal Foods line of salsas and condiments hit the shelves of Maryland Whole Foods stores in November 2009.
After visiting a few stores, Quintana noticed the kitchen staffs at Whole Foods were buying her sauces to prepare store items. She then thought, “Forget the retail, I’m going to wholesale the line.”
Expanding her business to wholesale was more lucrative and less labor-intensive for Quintana, so she secured a private loan for a commercial kitchen in Towson. With the added real estate, Quintana started thinking of different revenue streams and decided to open a restaurant.
Quintana opened Havana Road Cuban Cafe on Sept. 30, 2010. In the cafe’s first year, the Restaurant Association of Maryland named it a “Top Five New Restaurant in Maryland 2011.” The restaurant also received a “Best of Baltimore” award from Baltimore Magazine for its Cuban sandwich.
Above and beyond her impending MPT show, Quintana normally makes one TV appearance a week in cooking segments on local news stations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She also has a cookbook in the works. “I’m a multitasker. You have to be if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, and you have to be a risk-taker, which I am,” she said.