Business & Real Estate

Baking the world a better place: Local resident opens gluten-free Sweet Diplomacy after long wait

Sweet Diplomacy” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Sweet Diplomacy owner Melody Hu arranges some of her gluten-free confections on a tray Friday afternoon. Hu’s shop recently opened at 209 First St. in Los Altos.

Six months after Mountain View resident Melody Hu planned to open the doors of her gluten-free patisserie Sweet Diplomacy in downtown Los Altos, she finally celebrated her shop’s soft opening and is refining and customizing her shop’s aesthetic.

Just as Hu carefully notes her treats’ ingredients in an Excel spreadsheet, she details improvements she hopes to make to her brick-and-mortar space at 209 First St.

“Look who’s here,” Hu greeted this Town Crier reporter during a visit to the shop last week.

She offered a lavender hot chocolate to ensure warmth in the January cold, promising it was like sitting in a warm salt bath, and threw in a paleo brownie.

“It’s heaven in a square,” Hu added.

Pedestrians strolling under the trellis outside the storefront noticed the sandwich board announcing Sweet Diplomacy’s arrival and peered in through the windows, with a few entering the cozy space.

“The community response has been amazing,” Hu said. “We’ve had so many people that were happy because they can finally find something that they can eat. … I think in the country, or the world, a lot of people are becoming more and more dairy-intolerant.”

Hu said she is excited people in the area are mindful of what they put into their bodies. A few doors down, Alkalign founder Erin Paruszewski is gluten-free, Hu noted, and the presence of nearby fitness studios like Momentum Cycling encourages her.

A fitness instructor with a sweet tooth, Hu’s focus on actively choosing the ingredients she puts into her body has fueled her push to get Sweet Diplomacy up and running.

During the monthslong delay in opening the patisserie, Hu sold her custom cakes online to support the small business. Customers can now come into the shop and order cakes, but ready-made ones are not yet available. The staff is currently working to master menu items such as savory wheatless gougeres and sweet vegan and paleo cookies.

Hu prioritized finding employees with empathy when hiring Sweet Diplomacy’s staff. She said her full-time barista, half-time baker and part-time helpers reflect the diversity of the region and Sweet Diplomacy’s slogan: “World flavors, inclusive tastes.”

“We try to take you on a journey around the world on your palate,” she told a first-time customer who wandered in to buy a cookie and wandered out singing the bakery’s praises.

Hu hopes those who drop by the early-20th-century explorer-inspired shop feel like they are sitting in a friend’s kitchen, watching treats being made in front of them. The grayish-purple stone counters, wooden shelves and pine-cone garland adorning the entrance aim to differentiate Sweet Diplomacy from the average pastel-heavy bakery.

The patisserie is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays for now, but Hu intends to expand the hours alongside the offerings. She is working with the city of Los Altos to schedule a grand opening for the end of the month.

“We are definitely gearing up,” Hu said. “One step at a time.”

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