Since COVID struck, many of us have had to find creative ways to pass the time. While this is a daunting era for all industries, hospitality, bartenders, chefs and restaurateurs have found ways to create temporary moments of joy.
Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, executive chef at José in North Dallas, took to crafting during the earlier parts of quarantine. Having survived COVID-19 herself and dealing with the city shutdown, she began drawing symbols and designs significant to Mexican and Latin culture as a way to pass time.
“Being a chef, you get to be creative at every time of day,” she says, “and in quarantine, there isn’t really room for that. It became very depressing and isolating.”
One night, while she and her husband were watching TikToks, she came up with the idea of making stickers. Not necessarily to sell, but rather, to pass along to friends and customers.
Prior to her 40th birthday, Quiñones-Pittman and her husband planned to visit Tulum. However, as one could predict, the trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, she and her husband, chef Daniel Pittman (Cane Rosso), were able to get their money back. They then decided to use the money and invest it toward her sticker side hustle.
“I think [my husband] kind of saw me going down, like, a bad path,” Quiñones-Pittman says. “In order to cheer me up, he was like, ‘You know what? You're really liking all these stickers that you're drawing. Let’s get you the right equipment set up to really get it going.’ And I was like ‘Whatever, this is just for fun.’”
Quiñones-Pittman then began playing around with different ideas. She drew different designs and tested out different papers. Many of her designs are inspired by her “loud, rambunctious” Latinx family, as well as her heritage. Some of her designs include sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos, a taco and a bottle of salsa, and a pair of fists with the phrase “taco life” across the knuckles.
Once Quiñones-Pittman began passing her stickers out to customers, they became an immediate hit.
“People were like, ‘Where can we buy these? These are so cute,’” Quiñones-Pittman says.
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On Sept. 7, Quiñones-Pittman launched an Etsy shop called Cielo Designs, named after her parents’ term of endearment for each other. ("Cielo" means "sky" or "heaven" in Spanish.)
Sept. 21, Quiñones-Pittman will be helping José customers register to vote all day, and she will give them a special, political-themed sticker.
While designing stickers has kept her motivated and fulfilled during this difficult time, cooking will always be Quiñones-Pittman’s first love. However, she hopes that this side hustle will show others that they can find joy in difficult situations.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Quiñones-Pittman says. “It turned a really crappy situation into something fun. It’s also a way to show my daughter, ‘Look, you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it.’”