My Career Choice: Holly Olchak DeSantis – Bis.Co.Latte

When longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident Holly Olchak DeSantis opened her biscotti/coffee shop Bis.Co.Latte in July, 2007, it was the culmination of many years of work. Prior to opening the café, she owned and operated the catering company Party Girls, out of which she cooked up tasty treats for music industry stars like Cher, Robbie Robertson, Donny Osmond, the Goo Goo Dolls and Peter Gabriel. She also accommodated non-profit organizations including NARAL and New York Women in Film & Television. The birth of her son, Julian, meant that Holly had to scale back the business. This gave her time to fine-tune her biscotti recipes and plan a new venture closer to home. Bis.Co.Latte has since become an active part of NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen community as it spreads biscotti and love there and beyond. For more information, go to Bis. Co. Latte’s website. www. Biscolatte.com

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
There is no one event, but I can tell you that after living in L.A. and moving back to my hometown of NYC, I felt a need to take my cooking craft out of the house and into the neighborhood. This was also after a lifetime of working out of the home.

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?  
My career came naturally, but I also believed it was a way to grow old gracefully. Not! It was more work than I imagined!

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I read many cookbooks and magazines over the years. But mostly it was just about hosting parties and working with food from a very young age–over and over and over again. For years, I was a caterer for corporate entertainment-related things: movies, books, record albums and video releases.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging? 
People enjoyed whatever I fed them, so it was hard not to continue doing it!

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change? 
I never really changed my career. I was a caterer for 15 years, so it seemed like a natural choice to open a café/bakery storefront.

When did your career reach a tipping point? 
My “tipping point” was when I took my business out of my home! But I was a late bloomer. I had a child when I was 42, so I wondered what do I do outside of the home, and yet still be close to home so I could be there for my son. I had hopes of creating a community-driven place where my son could ultimately bring friends, their mothers, etc.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
I always had done my business from my home. The challenge came when I had to learn how to balance a storefront operation with overhead while trying to earn a profit.

What single skill has proven to be most useful? 
I never waste anything–time included.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
My vision and sticking to what I believe in is my biggest accomplishment. Setting a goal and achieving the kind of storefront that I wanted–a bakery café and a place for friends and the community. That’s why we have a “No computer” policy! We don’t want to be like a commercial chain store, but a truly community-driven location for friends and family–and so I could be close to home for my son.

Any advice for others entering your profession?
Do what you love, and work hard. It doesn’t always pay the big bucks, but to some of us integrity is everything–and it might just pay the bills.