Thanks to our friends at LiveDish for featuring an interview with Chef Elisa Lyew!
Check out a transcript of the interview below and visit LiveDish to get the full story!
We talked with the pastry chef/owner of Elisa’s Love Bites, Elisa Lyew, and learned about her healthy and scrumptious concept for a bakery in Bushwick that makes you feel better about satiating that sweet tooth.
Elisa, can you tell us a little bit about your dessert atelier, Elisa’s Love Bites?
Elisa’s Love Bites is a unique bake shop where everything is custom-tailored to fit in a well-balanced diet. Starting with the ingredients that go into our desserts, as well as the serving portions, everything is meant to be delicious, nutritious, and satisfying without causing damage to the body. Our menu is entirely gluten-free and we only use low-glycemic sweeteners, never refined or artificial sugars.
We love the concept of your bakery. How did you come up with it?
As a sweets lover and health-conscious eater, I recognize how difficult it is to find desserts that are enjoyable and not unhealthy, so I set out to create my own! I started out by picking ingredients that are naturally sweet and have various health benefits and figured out how to incorporate them in the recipes I wanted to create. Once I started doing some more research and realized there is a real need for healthier dessert options, I took the plunge and started my own bakery so that everyone can have the option of indulging in better sweet treats.
Where did you hone your techniques as a pastry chef?
In addition to my lifelong love of baking, I have previously worked at various NYC restaurants, mostly Italian. One of my best learning experiences was the time I spent at Emporio, where the owner/executive chef was very involved in every aspect of the restaurant and demanded the absolute best from everyone, no excuses. I did a lot of growing up professionally and personally and learned so much about running my own kitchen from my time working for Riccardo Buitoni.
Your ‘Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies’ are an instant classic. What are some new sweet treats you’ve been working on?
We have recently introduced a couple new items, including vegan almond meringues as well as Dark Side Cookies – a sweet/savory black rice shortbread. And as always, I like to play around in the kitchen to see what else I can come up with, so keep an eye out for new specials and menu additions!
How long has Elisa’s Love Bites been open?
Our Brooklyn bakery opened in May 2016 and the business had previously operated online and as a catering service since 2014.
What do you love about the neighborhood you’re located in?
Bushwick is a lively neighborhood full of creative people, and there’s art everywhere you look. It’s a more laid-back vibe than other areas of NYC and there are tons of small businesses, which the locals love and support.
We love the art in here. Can you tell us more about it?
The decor was a collaboration between artist Ana Noel and myself. I wanted to use the characteristics I love about the space and implement them into the design as a whole. For example, I love the uneven cement floor that has old shoe prints and other marks, as well as the mismatched tin ceiling. So I wanted the space to have a kind of grungy, unfinished look while still being pretty to look at. For the right side of the wall, I created a splattered-paint design that highlights the healthy ingredients used in my recipes. And on the left side of the wall, the custom mural was designed by Ana Noel to showcase part of our logo by incorporating it into her mandala theme, which she created to bring good vibes to the space.
The names of your desserts are so witty and cute. How do you come up with them?
The names are a reflection of my sense of humor; I’m that friend who’s always making “that’s what she said” jokes.
What’s your favorite sweet treat to make?
I love making anything with chocolate! But if I have to pick one favorite, it would be the Black Heart Cake. I love how delicious it smells when it comes out of the oven and I eat it every day!
What have been some of the triumphs and what have been some of the challenges of opening your own shop?
This has been the best thing I have ever done, and also the hardest. Owning a bakery was a dream of mine for a very long time, so being here is a huge triumph. Something as basic as setting up a company and finding a space in NYC is very costly and requires a lot of time and effort. As a small business owner and a woman in the food industry, the odds are unfairly stacked against you and it’s something you have to fight every single day, which is exhausting! And on the personal front, it is extremely difficult to find time to take care of yourself, so most of the time you don’t. As challenging as it is, nothing compares to the happiness I get when I make someone’s day with one of my creations, or when any of my celiac customers tell me they’re so happy to be able to eat cake!
What’s the best dessert you’ve ever had?
I can’t pick just one! My great-aunt Mable’s walnut cookies are my favorite in the world, I always run to Doughnut Plant on cheat days and treat myself to their Tres Leches or Blackout, every time I visit my hometown (Panama City, Panama) I have to stop at Granclement to have my favorite rum-raisin gelato, and here in NYC, my buddy Jesus Perea’s corn husk meringue.
Any healthy baking tips you want to share?
The easiest way to elevate the nutritional content of your desserts is to use coconut palm sugar instead of cane sugar. Instant makeover for anyone unsure of where to start! And coconut oil is far superior to vegetable oil in terms of nutrition and flavor.
Are you looking forward to baking some fall inspired sweets and if so what’s on your radar?
Yes! One thing I love about New York is the changing seasons and the foods they bring. I haven’t yet planned out a fall menu, and my new desserts are usually created at the last minute after I’ve found a new ingredient I want to work with. Most of the time this happens when I find something at the farmers market or my favorite spice shop (Dual Specialty Store in the East Village), and decide I have to use it in a new recipe.