So many in the restaurant industry are indefatigable. They have to be. It’s the nature of the job.
Andrea Meyer, who runs Bisous Bisous Patisserie, is a perfect example of that.
On a recent Saturday morning, Meyer could be found standing outside the shop, which is on a pleasant interior street in part of West Village offering constant shade and a nice breeze.
Speaking with a regular, Meyer waves to others as they walk into her shop for their morning coffee and pastry rituals. The sound of a forlorn alarm coming from a scooter moving out of a parking space completes the Uptown picture.
“This is exactly what I wanted,” Meyer says of her Uptown bakery. “It’s here. This is why we did all of this.”
She strolls the small space with ease, making the cane she’s using seem invisible.
The cane is the result of a bit of a medical setback that caused her to reshape some of her business priorities — but not her dreams of running a successful Dallas patisserie.
Meyer, 38, opened Bisous in February 2015. After going to Plano East Senior High School, she attended the University of North Texas to study English literature to be a professor. Putting herself through school by working at Williams-Sonoma at NorthPark Center, she had exposure to food she loved, but she didn’t love the retail aspect.
That spark stayed with her after working for years at powerhouse accounting firm Ernst & Young, where she worked her way up. She and her husband Matt traveled and visited France every year.
“We loved the atmosphere, having the time to take a break and enjoy pastry and good coffee, then we’d come back to Dallas and lament we didn’t have that here,” Meyer says. “I don’t want a cupcake, I just want a croissant with my coffee in the morning, and there really wasn’t anything like that here.”
So she decided to change that.
“I knew if I really wanted to go all-in on pastry, then I wanted to actually train,” she says.
EY gave her a flexible schedule so she could go to culinary school. On days while studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin from 6 a.m. to noon, she’d grab a sandwich before going to work from 1 to 9 p.m. Through all that, she never let go of the vision she wanted for what would become Bisous.
“From that first day of culinary school, I described this. This is exactly what I wanted,” she says.
The nine-month intensive learning process gave her the training to head to Napa Valley, Calif., where she worked in the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group at Bouchon Bistro.
“We had a house in Plano that a friend was renting, and we knew we were going to come back here,” she says. “We wanted (Bisous) here.”
Before she had a chance to job hunt, friends hosting events asked if she would bake for them.
“It started to snowball. That was 2012,” she says. “By 2013, we went ahead and incorporated the business. And I spent all of 2013 recipe testing, building the plan, making sure we had financials in place. By 2014, we were working in rental kitchens.”
Supplying her pastries to the Nespresso outlet at NorthPark Center gave the couple the stability to grow the business and open the storefront in 2015. They opened with 600 square feet for both retail and wholesale. Today, there’s an offsite kitchen offering five times the space, where all of the wholesale items are made.
Bisous Bisous is bright and full of natural light, not unlike the energy Meyer gives off as she speaks to customers about pastries or about their day.
But about a year ago, real life hit hard in the form of major spinal surgery. It forced Meyer to rethink some things.
For one thing, her 60- to 70-hour work weeks became a relic of the past.
“Prior to needing surgery, I was just invincible,” she says. “You work and work, and you don’t pay attention to, ‘Oh, I haven’t been to the dentist in a year.’”
The need for surgery was sudden and unexpected, along with the reality that she would miss time in the shop.
“I was fortunate that I had a lot of time to plan for it. I had about two months to make sure all my staff was ready, that we had processes for things I may not have thought of,” she says. “As a business owner, you’re so in the process of getting things moving, happening and producing and taking something that’s in your brain and creating it, you don’t always keep track of, ‘Oh, this is how I do this.’
“So I was able to take about two months of that, breaking that down and making sure that we have the right staff in place, and really they were stellar.”
Sales were up from the previous year while she was out.
“I was like, ‘Cool, you guys don’t need me.’ They did a really great job,” she says. “You never know. You’re in this industry, and we knew when I went out for surgery, this could be it for the business.”
After speaking with Meyer awhile, you can understand her work ethic. You probably shouldn’t be too surprised that she only took 10 days off for the surgery. She was quickly back to doing behind-the-scenes work from home, but the fact that she was able — or forced — to step away from the physical shop provided a new perspective.
“My whole life is this business, so we did wonder at the outset, Is this going to work, are we going to be able to do this, to handle it, what’s going to be wrong? And they really nailed it,” she says. “Honestly, everybody that I know who has tried to get out of the day-to-day, it’s really hard. If you’re able to stay in it, then you stay in it.”
Brian Luscher, the chef-owner of The Grape, met Meyer at the White Rock farmers market back when he was first selling his Post Oak Red Hots and she "was the dork from the macaron stand," he says.
"Andrea has a hyper-aware attention to detail that I admire, while at the same time, it scares the ever lovin' frangipane right outta me," Luscher says. "The uncanny part is that it's innate. She's very easy to please: nothing less than perfection will do. And she can back it up. The old German chefs would've loved her."
Along with a rock-solid work ethic, Meyer is a perfectionist, which has served her patisserie well, Luscher says. "She will be the first one to beat herself up over her own effort if she falls short, while not letting any of it show. She trains and expects those who work for her to give their very best in return," Luscher says. "Plain and simple, she is just flat-out a badass chef."
Having to take a step back now and then also produced another result — one she’s happy to share.
“A lot of times, I really just say if I can bring people into our team and they leave us better than how they came — whatever way that is, even if they don’t stay in the industry — then I’ve done my job. And furthermore, if they can do my job better than I can, then all the better,” she says. “And they don’t get that opportunity unless you get out.”
Meyer loves being in the shop — interacting with customers, seeing new creations come about, watching people find joy when they discover her treats.
But leaving a little bit of the physical store behind also carried a feeling that’s a little bittersweet.
“I want to be around all of these people. I want to be around our customers, I want to see the products,” Meyer says. “I think the pastries are beautiful; I built this place because I love it. I don’t know that I would’ve seen it through that lens if I had not been away so long.”
She carefully works with her staff, and it shows: Of the 18 members, about a third have been there for several years.
“That’s a lot in this industry,” she says.
A family effort
Her family has been just as crucial. A few years after opening, Bisous launched the food truck Rendezvous, which is really a pet project of her husband’s, she says. While not part of her business plan, she says it’s an example of him jumping in and creating a complement that works.
The truck “wasn’t street ready until the beginning of 2018,” she says. “He (Matt) has a full-time job. He and his dad were doing it on the weekends. They loved every bit of it. And he’s handy. Things they didn’t know how to do, they figured it out.”
Her sister also served as a barista when they first opened, and her father-in-law, who’s “retired,” is their truck driver six days a week, starting at 4:30 a.m.
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“This is our passion, so I think our family sees that, too,” she says. “Every pop-up we have, every time we do like a Sammie Sunday, my mom and my grandma, my stepdad and my sister, everybody’s here. Probably because they want a sammie, but also because they want to be supportive.”
Bisous and Meyer have been honored with “best” titles from multiple publications, including this one, and business seems steady. Rendezvous will keep making the rounds. Ice cream will start selling from the storefront in July, and the monthly special flavors in the macarons and eclairs will continue.
“We’re not trying to have pastry domination,” she says. “We are working with flour and sugar here. If we go one day without raspberry cruffins, it’s going to be OK.
“I keep the end picture in mind, and we do what we can do to get that. The deadlines and plans, I made those up, so move them. We’re really trying to just make people happy with pastry. If we can give somebody a smile in their day or a boost for something, that’s all we’re trying to do.”