Emily and Melissa Elsen – Owners, Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Thu, 19 March 2015
Emily Elsen

Emily and Melissa Elsen grew up in rural South Dakota, where they learned the art of pie making from their grandmother. After moving to New York and pursuing separate careers (Emily in art and Melissa in finance) the two finally opened Four and Twenty Blackbirds in 2010 and have had little time to look back. In its five years, the Gowanus bakery has accumulated a huge following of locals and Manhattanites alike. The demand for their seasonally-flavoured pies grew at such a rate that they recently opened a giant pie kitchen a mile up the road from the café, where a swarm of bakers chop, fold and churn all day to accommodate the growing demand.

Working as sisters, Emily tells us, has its pros and cons: “We definitely fight. But it’s like a secured, long-term friendship, and we trust each other over anything else.”

Four and Twenty’s most recent accolade came in the latest Lonely Planet City Guide, when it was named ‘NYC’s best pies, hands down.’ It isn’t just the buttery crusts and dense, locally-sourced fillings that push queues out the door and round the corner of their pie shop but also Emily and Melissa’s loyalty to the rituals of baking. “We want to honour traditional pie-making,” Emily explains. “We aren’t trying to make weird things like pie pops or anything cutesy like that. We rarely deviate from traditional bakes. We experiment constantly with flavour, but the elements always stay customary.”

In a city where food trends come and are swiped from under your nose before you’ve had a chance to savour them, Four and Twenty Blackbirds continues to show New York the value of modesty and quality.

More from influential women in the NYC food scene:

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