Chelsea Kravitz is as much an artist as she is a baker. She's known for elaborate custom cakes and intricate hand-painted cookies that play as a miniature canvas for vibrant colors. But, she is best described by her fortitude. The foodservice industry, now more than ever, offers little security and stability, yet for Chelsea, the kitchen is where she finds solace.
After a few years of working out of a modest home kitchen in Upstate New York, Chelsea relocated to her home-base in Long Island, New York in 2012 to pursue her dream of opening a bakery and cafe. A place to put down roots, gather as a community, and supply living-wage jobs. Beyond that, she saw a need in her community, a gap that traditional Italian and French bakeries weren't filling. The idea behind Flourish Bakeshop & All Day Café is to create a beautiful, community-driven space with modern but approachable treats (with great coffee to go with!) as well as a full breakfast and lunch menu, 7 days a week.
Unfortunately, she was just about to close on the space in March 2020 when everything shut down—this is where her never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude serves her well. Chelsea pushed through, taking the time to flush out her business plan, grow her recipe and technique repertoire, and build her online business through her social media platforms. This month, she finally received her permits for construction and broke ground on her new venture.
Chelsea enjoys working with exciting, globally-inspired flavors incorporating ingredients like turmeric, cardamom, passion fruit, and guava into her baked goods. She draws inspiration from the community around her and says that she isn't self-taught, but community-taught, having learned the most about her craft through conversations and shared experiences. It's proof that a culinary degree doesn't make someone a chef—it's about passion, creativity, and finding a community in the kitchen.
We chatted with Chelsea Kravitz to learn more about The Bakery Lady and Flourish Bakeshop & All Day Café—how it started and what the future holds.
What inspired you to start your business let alone during a pandemic?
I officially started my business, The Bakery Lady, in 2017, but I decided I would open my own brick and mortar back in 2013. 8 years later, I'm breaking ground on Flourish Bakeshop & All Day Café. It's been a process, to say the least. Owning and running a business is nothing like what 23-year-old me imagined, but I'm super excited for this next chapter. I've learned more than I ever thought I would about permits, licenses, and legal paperwork.
Did you pivot from your original business plan at all?
I actually made very few significant changes from my original business plan. For me, it's always been about good food, good jobs, and good people in a beautiful, but relaxed environment. Those are my favorite things about hospitality, and I thrive off of making people happy. It's always been really important to me to have a business that values people over profit. I think it's more important to pay people a living wage, provide benefits for them, and treat them with dignity and respect than to have extra profit in my pocket at the end of the day.
Takeout, online ordering, and a counter service model were always part of the plan, which is in line with what's worked for most folks over the past year. Events have downsized, canceled, and rescheduled, but most working in the food industry are pros at thinking on their feet and making quick changes. It's taxing, but we love what we do.
I think it's more important to pay people a living wage, provide benefits for them, and treat them with dignity and respect than to have extra profit in my pocket at the end of the day.
Has this experience changed the way you work in your kitchen, and is safety a concern?
I've had both the fortune and misfortune of working as a team of one throughout the pandemic. While it's a lot for one person, it's been safe working solo. That said, it was something incredibly present on my mind. I have spent a good deal of time making safety plans for Flourish when there's a full team in place, and advocated that people choose takeout over indoor dining (and tip big like they just dined in and had the best night of their life) whenever possible.
I spent a few weeks at the beginning of lockdown focusing on fundraising for folks in the industry who were furloughed, laid off, etc. I illustrated foods from favorite restaurants and brands of mine, raising over $20,000.00 in total. It was extremely gratifying to feel like I could be of service in some small way.
Do you think 2020 has changed the way people view food?
I think there's probably a lot of new hobbyist bakers and cooks, and even more people sick of cooking night after night. Unfortunately, it's been reported that sexual harassment of servers and hospitality workers is up, while tips are down. I'd hoped to see the value of food and those who prepare and serve it rise, but I can't honestly say that I have.
What's your favorite item to bake and why?
Ha! This has always been my least favorite question that people ask me, and I recently figured out why. My favorite thing to bake or cook is something new or something really challenging. Baking and cooking essentially serve three purposes in my life; something to control, something to create, and something to fulfill me. I became sober at 19 and felt like my life was in total chaos. I started cooking and baking all the time, and it felt good to be able to have control over a situation, express myself creatively, and scratch the itch I have to make people happy. It only took 11 years, but I finally nailed it.
How do you see your business evolving and growing over the next few years?
Well, I'm in a huge phase of transition at the moment, and I'm aiming for a Summer 2021 opening for Flourish Bakeshop & All Day Café (fingers crossed). Other than that, after the past year, I'm not really sure, but I'm really excited to find out.