Jami Curl is the dreamweaver of all candy and sweet treats found at Portland’s QUIN and Sprinklefingers. She brings to her shops a passion for baking and candy making, knowing that indulgences are better when made by hand with real ingredients. As the founder of Portland’s beloved Saint Cupcake, Jami has been treating the sweet teeth of the city to sugary perfection for over 9 years.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am Jami Curl. I am a candy maker, a mother and a friend to a select few who can deal with me constantly offering candy or other sugary delights. I have a candy company called QUIN. We are located in Portland, Oregon and we use super great ingredients. Our strawberry lollipops contain real-deal strawberries. Our blackberry gumdrops are so real they have seeds inside. I once dreamed a recipe for a candy, came in to work the next day and made it exactly was it was written in the dream and the result was a candy we call Dreams Come Chew—an updated Starburst-like candy with just five ingredients. I am a complainer and a doer—which I think is the perfect combination. Nothing worse than a complainer who does nothing. I’m a complainer who does everything.
How has living in Portland affected your work? Portland is an okay place to do business in general, but the ideal place to be in the business of food. There are so many small batch producers of everything in Portland. The salt we use in our candy is harvested on our own coast by our own friend Ben Jacobsen. The honey we use? It comes from a hive less than a mile from our candy lab. The chocolate for our chocolate caramels comes from a bean-to-bar operation just across the river. Almost anything you want that’s food related you can find someone doing it small-batch style in PDX.
If you were a drink what drink would you be? Without a doubt, Topo Chico mineral water. It is just as bubbly and refreshing as I like to think I am.
How did your interest in your work begin? I have had a raging sweet tooth since forever. My first job was at the Geneva Dairy D’Lite in Geneva, Ohio at the age of 12. I wanted to work, of course, but I also wanted to be near an unlimited supply of ice cream. It was at the Dairy D’Lite that I first started working with flavor pairings. It sounds ridiculous, I know —but it’s true. I was able to dream up sundaes and they’d make it to the menu—it was the start of a lifetime of thinking up treats that would be loved by many.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. She’s a G.D. genius.
Tell us about your work process and how it develops. A lot of my work starts with eating a candy that’s kind of gross and then thinking about recreating it in a (much) less-gross way. From there I might be inspired by a fruit that I’m obsessed with or a new item from a local maker and I’ll think of ways to incorporate those things while reinventing at the same time. Some recipes come to me really quickly—one or two tries and it’s there. Other times I work and work and work at it—a recent candy I developed took 44 tries to get it just right. We generally do not put anything on the shelves that I don’t think is perfect. From there I have to consider packaging, labeling and then getting it on to shelves—both in our own store in Portland and then to our wholesalers. There are many times in this process that I wish I could just focus on the magic of making candy—but as a business there are so many other things to consider.
How long have you lived in Portland and what brought you there? I moved to Portland 17 years ago. I came from Ohio with my closest friend because we read an article in our hometown paper describing Portland, Oregon as a city raised on coffee, beer and books.
What are you reading right now? I am re-reading Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin for about the 12th time. I don’t know if there will ever be a book that better describes the spirit and the feeling of food in my life.
What do you do when you’re not busy with Quin? I have a 6 year old little boy who is a dancer, actor and singer. It sounds funny, but it’s true. He’s outrageous. When I’m not working on QUIN or obsessing over a recipe, I’m obsessing over him or watching him act out scenes from his favorite musicals.
What are you really excited about right now? The future! I am so fortunate to have this job that allows me to make candy. And even though it is “just” candy, I still put my heart and soul into what I do every damn day. I take it so seriously and work at it every minute I can. I am really, really excited to see how the future unfolds for QUIN.
(Also, I am seeing Justin Timberlake in LA in August and I’m pretty excited about that, too.)