One tough cookie

Alyssa Arellano’s Aly’s Cookie Bar was in construction when lockdown hit. Undeterred, she continues to bake and offer her creations from home.

Covid-19 hit us all, from our daily lives and our health to our livelihoods. But can you imagine the devastation it brought for some who have been planning and setting up their businesses, but suddenly found their plans foiled, changed, or cancelled because of this pandemic? 

This is exactly what happened to Alyssa Arellano, owner and the baker behind the mouth-watering cookies of Aly’s Cookie Bar. In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the 27-year-old entrepreneur shares how this pandemic postponed her dreams and how she’s trying to cope.

Home is where it all began

Growing up in a family who’s into food paved the way for Aly to fall in love with baking at a young age. “My parents were both really fond of cooking and baking, which is why we’d have a lot of cookbooks lying around the house, which sparked my fascination for food,” she says. “I taught myself to make cookies around the age of eight with help from the Food Network, my favorite channel growing up.” 

She also has a knack for business, selling her baked goodies at school. In college, Aly decided to take up Baking and Pastry Arts at the International School for Culinary Arts and School Management (ISCAHM). 

“I started selling cookies way back in grade school,” she says. “This eventually backed up my senior project in 12th grade and turned into a full-blown business when I went to culinary school.” 

Right after graduating, Aly decided to get into the cupcakes business, until she decided to shift direction to making cookies. “I ventured into making cupcakes at first—this was the time cupcakes were just starting to gain traction in Manila,” she continues. “At the time my brand was called Enchanted Desserts, but then there was a switch inside of me. As much as I loved to make cupcakes and loved decorating them more than anything, I felt sick of it and decided to just stick to cookies, my first love. And that’s how Aly’s Cookie Bar came to be.” 

Covid-19 and Aly’s Cookie Bar

With the support of her family, Aly finally decided to put up a physical store. After all the business planning and preparation, she started working on her supposed café at Salcedo, Makati. 

“I was always a seasonal baker and would only bake for Spectrum Fair Manila events. With a huge push from my brother Josh and my mother Pia, who have now invested and become business partners, I decided to take my cookie business to the next level in the beginning of 2020,” she says. “We were two days into construction of putting up our first cookie bar cafe in Salcedo when lockdown was implemented. You could imagine our astonishment when we heard the news.” 

Aly admits that this major setback affected her, but she didn’t let it discourage her from continuing her business at home. “It’s very stressful being on lockdown. It was especially difficult in the beginning with getting supplies and ingredients, while the looming fear of the unknown and the state of our store lingered,” she says. “Since then, we have continued home operations.” 

Baking with love

At home, Aly continuously bakes her Aly’s Cookie Bar’s goodies. She offers three cookie flavors that would surely lighten up your mood after a long meeting or when you’re feeling down with all that’s happening these days. 

The first one is the Triple Chocolate Chunk, which is made of the ACB’s signature dough with dark, milk, and semi-sweet chocolate. This chewy cookie is Aly’s version of classic chocolate chip. 

Then there’s Chocolate Cranberry, where white chocolate chips deliciously blend with cranberry’s sour-sweet taste. If you’re a non-white chocolate lover, you will have a change of heart with this one. 

Lastly, there’s Dark Chocolate Fleur de Sel, the shop’s contender against the usual Triple Chocolate Chunk. 

“It took me two to three years to perfect my cookie recipe before establishing Aly’s Cookie Bar in 2013. I find that when it comes to cookies, people have relative tastes but one thing our #alyscookiemonsters always say is that our cookie ages like fine wine,” she says. “Our cookie debunks that cookies are only best when freshly baked—we beg to differ.” 

She then gives a message to those who want to venture into baking business. “I’ve always been a big supporter of local SMEs. The pandemic has greatly affected our workforce and I truly admire those who were able to adjust and pivot to the new normal by finding a new passion in baking,” she says. “Wake ‘n Bake. Get up, bake, repeat. Just make sure it’s something you love to do. You can’t fake the taste of a product made with love.” 

Currently, Aly’s Cookie Bar accepts order through its Instagram account @alyscookiebarmnl. To, ensure the quality, they are accepting only limited batches per week.