A pastry shop had been on Tanya’s radar for a long time, but it was a series of life experiences and moves all over the world that finally brought Tanya back to New York to open her charming shops devoted exclusively to French macarons. Tanya’s credentials are impressive — she holds a degree in computer science, but she also earned the “Grand Diplome” qualification for patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. With two locations nestled in the heart of New York City, Bisous, Ciao Macarons offers a special treat that will transport you to downtown Paris. Tanya was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and her shop for me, and I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by the subject of Vegemite entering the conversation.
Tanya, where did you get the inspiration to open a shop dedicated to macarons?
I remember the day like it was just yesterday. Back in 2004 when I lived in Paris, I remember walking by a very well known pastry house. There were so many colorful confections that caught my eye. There was row after row of these things that I didn’t even know the name of. I just thought to myself, “I need to know what these are, eat them all, and one day have a store dedicated to them.” Once I found out they were macarons, it was hard not to like them!
I love the name of your shop. Admittedly I had to translate the first word to figure out that the phrase means “kisses, goodbye” in French. How did you decide on that romantic moniker?
“Bisous, ciao,” was something I would hear a lot while living in France. Many people said it so casually when parting on the phone, in person, or on emails. It was also one of the first things my husband said to me when we first met. He didn’t know English. I didn’t know French. But when I got to a computer a couple of days later, I looked it up as well. It had such a sweet sound to it.
Share with me the process of deciding to attend Le Cordon Bleu after earning a degree in computer science? What did you originally want to do for a career?
I grew up in the food industry. My mother has owned a Thai restaurant since I was a child, so from a young age food was always an interest. While at Syracuse University, I studied Computer Science because it was interesting at the time, and I did actually enjoy it. It wasn’t until after graduation that I realized I didn’t want to confine myself to an office and a desk. During my 2nd year of living in Paris I attended Le Cordon Bleu. In fact, it was a lucky mishap because my visa was expiring and I needed to find a way to stay in the country. In the end, it turned out to be a life-changing decision.
You obviously started out solo, but your shop is now over 2 years old. How many people do you employ now? How much time do you still spend hands-on in your shop?
Shortly after the Lower East Side boutique opened, my husband left his consulting job to work at Bisous, Ciao full time. Since our second boutique opened, we have had several more employees join the team. Right now there are 9 total. Between the two stores, my work schedule is pretty crazy, and I’m hands-on in either one of the shops about 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m probably going to crash sometime soon, but for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You had a beautiful Spring/Summer collection of macarons recently, and have now rolled out your amazing Fall/Winter line. I love that you carry seasonal flavors. What is your favorite time of year at the shop?
Merci! My favorite time of the year at the shop is definitely Fall and Winter. I love creating familiar macaron flavors for the holidays — Spiced Pumpkin, Peppermint Chocolate, Caramel, and Apple, to name a few. It makes me so happy to hear customers bringing our macarons back to their homes for the holidays to share with family and friends. It’s truly very gratifying.
What do you feel is the most unusual flavor combination you have ever created, and what’s your personal all-time favorite?
Definitely Vegemite. It was an homage to when I lived in Sydney a few years back. The combination of the salty Vegemite, with the sweet buttercream actually created a nice balance. It was a novelty macaron that many of our Australian customers enjoyed. If you had never tried Vegemite, it was probably a good way to ease into it.
Picking a favorite macaron is like picking a favorite child — you don’t want to say it, but you do have one. My favorite is the Vanilla. We use two different types of fresh vanilla beans from Madagascar and Tahiti. It’s a classic flavor that I still crave to this day. And yes, I still do have a macaron almost every day!
Photography by: Albert Cheung