By Nicole Sims
Sweet Karma Desserts is not an average cookie cutter bakery. Instead, owner and executive pastry chef, Brian Fishman, has turned years of art school education into an art of perfecting baked goods.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Fishman spent years working for some executive kitchens across New York and even in Washington D.C. He says he always had a passion to learn, get better, and perfect his craft, which is why he often worked for free to apprentice at many of high-profile restaurants.
In 2003, Fishman opened his first bakery in East Meadow, N.Y. where he sold high-end baked goods wholesale to other restaurants. His creative works of edible art earned him many awards, including winning second place fore Bethpage’s Best of Long Island Dessert Shop in 2013.
After ten years at his shop in East Meadow, Fishman moved his business to Plainview N.Y. where he began selling individual desserts, while continuing to sell wholesale desserts. The move came because of what Fishman called as “an expensive hobby” that didn’t fit the needs of his expending business.
“I joke around with people and I tell everybody my job is cakes, and I do edible arts and crafts all day long, it’s just a different medium” Fishman said. For him this means replacing clay with modeling chocolate and gum paste.
“When I started to see what could be done with cakes, a whole new world was opened up for me,” Fishman says when describing how his artistic skill’s easily transferred into creating art on cakes.
At Sweet Karma Fishman caters to customers needs by creating many gluten free, and even kosher dessert options. He believes there’s a sort of beauty in taking desserts like tiramisu and bananas fosters, and reinventing them with his own unique twist. This includes creating these classic desserts into gluten free options that Fishman works to make just as good as the originals.
“I don’t believe in putting something in my case that’s gluten free that’s not as good as a regular dessert, because it has to be good whether it’s gluten free or not,” Fishman said. Fishman says that in his experience, many other bakeries don’t put importance on providing options for people than can only eat gluten free foods. He however thinks differently. “I don’t even want them to think of it as gluten free” Fishman said.
According to Sydney Schwartz, a cashier at Sweet Karma Desserts, “all the gluten free customers get so excited when they see we have a whole case of things to offer,” Schwartz said. Nearly one third of Sweet Karma’s desserts are gluten free.
Quality reigns over quantity when it comes to the handmade treats that line the shelves full of cupcakes, cakes and individual desserts in Fishman’s shop.
“I’m not saying it’s the best in the world, but we back up the way it looks with the way it tastes,” Fishman said, “and we push that as something that’s very important to us.”
Cindi Nugent of Syosset compares Fishman’s cakes to “a gorgeous dress with a gorgeous body in it.” She says that the first time she ordered a cake from Sweet Karma Desserts and saw the finished product, she was speechless. “It was breath taking because it was like an art piece made to a cake.”
According to Fishman, giving every customer this experience is what keep’s him passionate in his work, and motivates him to exceed his customer’s expectations.
“That’s what my industry is for, to really make people happy and for enjoyment” Fishman said. “People get enjoyment out of what we do, and that’s what makes me happy.”
However, Fishman admits that creating this experience for every customer cannot always be the case. “I’m not perfect, and every once in a while [we] might get a complaint, but we handle those complains and we try to make people as happy that we humanly can” Fishman said.
Although Fishman credits himself for creations of the dessert recopies, he gives a tremendous amount of credit to his staff for making his business successful.
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of creativity, and also a lot of learning,” said Jessica Campbell, a pastry chef at Sweet Karma Desserts. She started as an intern in 2001 while attending the Culinary Academy of Long Island, and again after a nine-year break from school in 2013 while finishing her last year at the Culinary Institute of America. When a pastry chef quit at Sweet Karma last year, Fishman asked Campbell to fill the position a week before her internship ended. She has been working alongside him ever since.
“She’s tireless,” Fishman said, “she work’s really hard, and she really backs me up and helps me get things done.”
When it comes to the future of his business, Fishman hopes to get into teaching culinary students. “What were really looking to do is… to get into teaching,” Fishman said. He hopes to open a school called the Sweet Karma Confectionary School where culinary students will learn the basics of cake making, along with a heavy emphasis on decorating. Fishman says that former bakery interns have told him he’s a good teacher. “I have patience, I have time for them, and it’s actually a really good revenue stream,” Fishman said. “Were trying to really open up new avenues for us, and I think that teaching and the school will be the way to go.”
When it comes to the success of his business, Fishman says that staying above competitors has kept Sweet Karma ahead of the rest. “I think honestly my greatest success is creating a business that’s still in business that people want to go to,” Fishman said. “You gotta love what you do, and I got a passion for pastry.”