"I think that pastries can be an art, and that's what we enjoy doing," says Arielle Israel, who co-founded Black Box Bakery with Megan Read in 2019. Now the two, along with Israel's husband, Ty Webb, are churning out some of the most eye-catching pastries in Denver from a kitchen formerly used for banquet prep at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown — an opportunity that came about because of the pandemic.
Israel grew up in the country of Israel. "I've been baking pretty much my whole life," she explains. "I used to work in my parents' catering business on and off. I never thought I'd be a baker." She did, however, have a longtime love for croissants. "I used to go to the south of France," she recalls. "My grandparents had a house there, and I would stand in line for the croissants and baguettes every morning, and my grandma made sure I'd get a fresh one."
Israel's brother wound up attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, which opened her eyes to the possibility of a career in the culinary world. She was attending the CIA in 2015 when she met Read, who'd developed a passion for baking as a child and participated in her Florida high school's ProStart program, which teaches participants culinary techniques and hospitality business management.
"And now it's one day," Israel adds.
Bindery owner Linda Hampsten Fox gave Israel and Read the idea to build their business on wholesale clients. "We were originally going to do a pastry truck," Israel explains. The Bindery was Black Box's first customer, and after a chance meeting with the owner of Ironton Distillery, the two began baking out of its small kitchen.
But as Black Box added more wholesale accounts, including a long list of coffee shops, the Ironton space became too small. "The owner of Stonebridge [Companies], which is the owner of a bunch of hotels in Denver, tasted one of our croissants — his daughter went to one of our coffee shops," Israel explains, adding that he was impressed by the quality, and "he had his assistant contact us." Stonebridge offered up the kitchen space at the Renaissance, which had been left empty as the pandemic put a halt to banquets. Now, Black Box provides all the pastries for the hotel, too.
Along with the wholesale business, Black Box began offering online ordering during the pandemic. Orders must be placed two days in advance with a five-pastry minimum for pick-up at the Renaissance lobby or delivery. "We're here like 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., then we do deliveries," Israel notes.
"We're gonna do like a bar/bakery," Read adds, with Webb heading up the cocktail program. The details are still being finalized, but all three are excited to get back in front of customers at a public-facing shop.
In the meantime, Black Box continues to experiment and push the limits of creativity with its pastries, which come in an actual black box. "We didn't want to be just another bakery with a brown box," Israel explains. "So I think that gave us a world of possibilities, and that's kind of where the space theme ties in. Because space is endless. You don't know what's out there. You don't know what you're going to get."
For Pride month, Black Box offered a rainbow-swirled croissant dubbed a "queerssont." It recently collaborated with Tí: Cafê Ta on a Pandan variety of the pastry, and every month, Black Box does a surprise special. Regular offerings include a chocolate croissant made with 72 percent cacao dark chocolate for an incredibly rich but not-too-sweet treat; a massive cinnamon roll; the Brekkie, a flaky pastry layered with Danish filling, bacon and maple syrup; and a croissant dipped in raspberry glaze with tart and tangy raspberry dust.
If you're looking for a flaky, pastry fix, Black Box is an out-of-this-world choice.
To place an online order from Black Box Bakery, visit blackboxbakery.com.