In the midst of the hip and colorful Bushwick neighborhood, there’s a new dessert atelier that opened just last May, Elisa’s Love Bites. The bakery features exactly what it markets–delicious dessert bites so sweet and pleasing they could only be described as love. What makes it so special? These desserts are gluten-free and wait for it…guilt-free. Delicious guilt-free dessert. You probably didn’t think those four words could go together, but here in Bushwick, they’re vibing all too well.
We got to take a look inside the bakery and talk to the mastermind behind it all: chef, owner, and manager Elisa Lyew. She started her pastry career working in restaurants throughout New York City, including Gusto Ristorante e Bar, Americano, Emporio, and The Flatiron Room. She spent years working as a pastry cook and chef doing mostly non gluten-free desserts. When we asked her why she decided to make the jump and open a gluten free bakery, we found it was anything but a small decision. She replied, “I had a car accident a few years ago and my doctor said to try to eat a low grain diet and go gluten-free.” This would be fine for most people, but working with gluten is pretty much a job qualification for a pastry chef. She told us how she processed and dealt with the news: “I said okay, but I still have to make desserts somehow. So how do I make them gluten free? I started working on recipes, and then once I had enough recipes, I started doing that on the side. And then eventually, that side gig became its own company, which is what you see here.”
As you open the doors to her bakery, the space feels fresh and inviting. She has an open kitchen and bakes throughout the day, so the smell of wonderful sweet pastry permeates the room. At Elisa’s Love Bites, what you see is what you get, and you know that everything is fresh. In true Bushwick fashion, the walls of her bakery were painted by an artist from Panama (Ana Noel, @ananoelart), Elisa's home country. The bakery is nothing short of a representation of Elisa: friendly, original, creative, and a straight up #bosslady. She owns, manages, and bakes in the space every day, and has built the bakery into what it is today. But the road to owning her business wasn’t a walk in the park. It was years of hard work paired with some testing times–times that truly revealed what she’s made of. She is the head chef and owner, but has had to wear many other hats as she was in the process of opening her bakery. From figuring out the concept to securing financing to talking with lawyers to working with vendors, she did it all with her two hands. Finally after two years of getting everything in place, she opened her doors in May 2016.
The dessert atelier has all kinds of unique healthy desserts that will satisfy a variety of palettes, and they all come with spunky names. Some favorites are the Bad Bunny Carrot Cake, First Date Truffles, Spankin’ Donuts, and Dope Banana Bread. Her best seller is the ‘Bangin Chocolate Chip Cookie’, a rich cookie that crumbles in your mouth and tastes like pure heaven. According to Elisa, “that’s actually the dessert that started the company. That was the first recipe that I created when I was first thinking about doing this. I made that recipe because I wanted to create my favorite chocolate chip cookie. Every other cookie out there was too big, or too crunchy, too sweet, or too something, so I wanted to create my perfect chocolate chip cookie.” Her personal favorite item is the Black Heart Cake. “It’s a really fudge-y, gooey, chocolate cake that seems like a devil’s food cake.”
Elisa’s Desserts Atelier is different from other bakeries because it’s not just a check-this-off-your-bucket-list kind of place; it’s a place that you can treat yourself to as part of your weekly regiment. “We make desserts with a healthier diet in mind, desserts that you can indulge in more often. It’s not something that’s going to make you feel super guilty or feel super full.” An additional perk: you get some nutritional value in them instead of empty calories. She doesn’t use any artificial or refined sweeteners. The sweetness you taste from her desserts is actually from things like coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, and homemade apple sauce. “I make sure to get ingredients that are already flavorful and sweet so I don't have to add extra stuff to them. I use things like figs, chocolate, apple, cherry juice, beat juice, etc. By using those ingredients, you get color, you get sweetness, and you get flavor, without having to use a lot of sugar.”
There are only a handful of gluten-free bakeries in New York, and Elisa’s Love Bites is really starting to build a name for itself within the community. She has developed a group of loyal customers, landed a partnership with UberEats, and made a name for herself in Bushwick. Her recipes are completely original, her treats are delicious and nutritional, and her bakery is fresh and inviting. This spring, Elisa will be nearing her first anniversary at the bakery, so we asked her to look back on her career as a pastry chef/business owner and tell us what have been her biggest challenges and proudest moments. Her answer was simple: “getting this idea off the ground and opening this place. It’s something I wanted to do for years, and to see it finally happen is huge for me.” We’re very excited to see how she has progressed and where she will continue to go.