Lisa Lou’s Chocolate
Lisa Lou is proud of her four sons: Marc, Pete, Joe and Frank. Now, this is not your run-of-the-mill family. Mama Lisa got her nickname from a Dad who was fully expecting to sire a boy he would call Luigi. When Lisa arrived, her father was delighted. Nevertheless, he called her ‘Lu’.
Lisa did go on to produce four boys of her own, though they are made of 68% dark chocolate. Marc is a small batch bourbon-drinking Kentucky cowboy crafted from roasted Marcona almonds, bourbon caramel and malted milk ganache. Pete is a supertaster computer genius with a heart made of pretzels, salted vanilla caramel and crunchy peanut butter.
That Frank is a bit of player. He glides in confidently with his Chai spiced candied pecans, chocolate salted caramel and crispy crepe wafers. And finally there is the gentlemanly Joe who has managed to tap into some uniquely Turkish heritage. Joe takes a stand with his roasted pistachios, coffee cardamom caramel and crispy shortbread.
“Marc, Pete, Joe and Frank are like my children,” confirms Lisa. “I spent last year developing the ideas around bars that had fun characters that reflected the flavour profile.”
Lisa and her boys can be found in lisalou’s chocolate bar, her new collaborative shop on Main Street. It is a food-rich setting, across the street from Torafuku, Campanolo and La Bodega. “This location was The Safari Café for 9 years,” says Lisa. “The previous owner Adam was well-known for a generous heart and the best Americano in the city.”
During the summer months, Lisa – whose last name is Gardin – will run an evening dessert service. “I make everything from scratch here. I have two kitchens, one exclusively for chocolate and the other for baked goods and confections. I love to take classic flavour pairings and make them with high quality ingredients in small batches.”
Right now, Lisa is gathering fresh fruits: rhubarb, cherries, raspberries next week, stone fruits in August. “It’s all quite early this year and very flavourful with all of the sun!” She will be baking fresh fruit crisps, tarts, cheesecakes, bars. “I am beginning to build a chocolate collection of bars, caramels, brittles, barks and dipped fruit for the summer. From October to May, we will introduce a full line of truffles, bonbons, handmade chocolate boxes and platters.”
By the time she was in high school, Lisa knew that she was going to be a chef. “I used all of my elections to take Culinary Arts training and started working in boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants before I graduated.”
She started as a line cook then discovered the pastry kitchen. “I loved the combination of science and sweets.” Lisa began her three-year pastry apprenticeship at The Wedgewood Hotel and finished at The Metropolitan Hotel’s Senses Bakery under Thomas Haas. “I then moved on to Chocolate Arts where I made chocolates every day and knew my true calling.” Lisa has taken her chocolate skills to Europe, Tokyo, Dubai.
She has also enjoyed experimenting with temperature, so you will find frozen treats at lisalou’s from May to October. “There will be a focus on making handmade ice creams, vegan sorbets and ice cream sandwiches and cakes. Each night, we will have a dessert feature: Float Fridays, Sammie Saturdays, Banana Split Sundays.”
Along with tempting Vancouver taste buds, Lisa is hoping to build a chocolate community. “I have a dream that a few local chocolatiers will use our chocolate kitchen to make their own collection of chocolates and sell them on our shelves too. You will find Karmei and Art Meets Chocolate, along with lisalou’s by the end of the month.”
What are some of the scariest things in starting her new venture? “Cash Flow! There are no friends and family discounts this week! And when do I take days off? Haha…January?!”
That said, Lisa is excited for the opportunity and grateful to family and friends who have helped her in painting and organizing the space, making products and running the till.
“Opening day was amazing! We had our first customer waiting for us to open the doors. There is a strong community feel with the neighbours above in the Co-op and in the surrounding blocks. We already have a loyal morning crew that comes in for coffee! I couldn’t be more thankful!”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* Photography by Suzanne Serwatuk