Connect As Humans First: QNSY Co-Founder Tara's Story, Part 2

July 29, 2022

Last month we sat down with QNSY co-founder Tara Merdjanoff to discuss her pre-QNSY journey, and how it’s shaped her as a learner, leader, comic, and human. Today, we’re diving into the next phase -- possibly most influential to what would become QNSY -- restaurants! In Tara’s own words:


I transitioned into restaurant work to make a better living while pursuing my comedy career. Restaurants, it turns out, are just like governments: systems based on human behavior. And when you’re a captain with a section of five tables, you’re the leader of your team (front waiter, back waiter and food runner). How do you make sure the system works for you and your team, not against you (especially as a woman in a toxic-male-dominated environment)? You understand the system and how it works and rely on your leadership skills: kindness, humanity, humility, and always doing the right thing. Connect as humans first, and then find the way to make it all work in an intense, fast paced environment. 

It soon became very clear that the systems in place in the similarly highly toxic male-dominated comedy world were heavily stacked against female comics, so I started my own open mic. It was very successful and cultivated a community of wonderfully supportive and creative comics who still support each other’s endeavors to this day. 

Out of that came my comedic cabaret show: The Merdjanoff Spectaculars! Comedy is all about connection. At its best, comedy is connecting with people’s humanity and allowing us to laugh at common foibles and idiosyncrasies. We’re all human. We’re all having a human existence. My shows were filled with kindness, inspiration, humanity, and humility. Together, we comics and audience alike fostered a sense of community, connection, and love. 

I also worked as part of the support team for an advertising executive while he was a Global CEO of a multinational agency. I was one of five people providing that support; four women and one guy. During my tenure there, the lessons from my temping days, where I learned what healthy and productive leadership looked like, were reinforced from the opposite end of the spectrum. Working at the agency, I discovered it is possible to lead from a position of ego and superiority, but that style of leadership serves as a shield, an armor, and there is nothing to support you when the shit hits the fan. This man was very successful, no doubt, but the emperor had no clothes. 

Leadership is not about dominating. It’s about reinforcing a team from the bottom up, and ensuring every individual feels like their work is understood, appreciated, and important to the whole. It’s systemic empathy and acknowledgement that drives teams to success, and that starts with leadership.

I understand systems. I understand people. Put them together, and that’s the foundation of what we’re building right now with QNSY: a brand based in joy, based in connecting with people’s humanity. 

In building QNSY, Jeremy and I have leaned heavy on our combined lifetime of restaurant and bar experience at some of New York’s staples of premium life, like Dovetail & Snack Taverna with incredible Chef John Fraser, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, Mercer Kitchen, and others, but QNSY wasn’t created to dazzle you for one night to live in a distant memory. We’ve created something that brings a bit of that sparkle into the everyday. A drink just as at home with a late-night slice as it is… well, at home on a Sunday afternoon at the barbecue, or one of over a dozen events around New York over the summer. This is our way of making damn good cocktails made with real ingredients not only accessible, but making them distinctively Queens, the land of real people. 

We hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain into Tara’s backstory and what makes QNSY tick!

To get your hands on a bit of Queens & taste a damn good cocktail, decades in the making, find your local QNSY retailer here.