Toronto's hottest new secret bagel shop is hidden inside a pizzeria
One of Toronto's hottest new bagel shops isn't really a bagel shop at all and only operates inside a closed pizzeria during off hours.
Bar Sugo chef Joel Presant has been making bagels for about two years on and off for friends and family, starting out in his apartment.
"After some recipe testing left me with too many to eat or freeze I decided to see if folks on Facebook wanted some," Presant tells blogTO. "Eventually they all sold out and people kept asking for more if I made more bagels in the future."
After taking a couple of months off work to finish up university, Presant returned just as the pizzeria formerly known as Conzo's closed for renovations early in the new year. (Aside: the space became Bar Sugo, where Presant works.)
That meant shorter days and fewer work hours, so Presant went back to leaning on his bagel-making.
He continued making them for friends and family, but soon coworkers wanted in, and then the project started to outgrow his apartment.
When he asked Bar Sugo owner Conor Joerin whether he could use the restaurant space to make his bagels during the off hours, Joerin allowed him to use the space and equipment freely.
"His and the other owners' faith in me to carry out these pop-ups has been unbelievably awesome and so helpful in allowing me to grow," says Presant.
They eventually reached an agreement where Presant would use the space for bagels on Mondays while the restaurant was closed. At the same time, Presant was able to post about the growing batches of bagels he had available more regularly on Facebook.
Presant says his bagels are "untraditional," not necessarily New York or Montreal in style.
"My bagels are a deeper golden brown than most. That comes from a blend of flours that I use as well as maple syrup as part of my poaching liquid rather than honey or barley malt syrup that are used in Montreal or NY style," says Presant.
"My bagels have a great depth of flavour in even the most basic plain bagel, which was my ultimate goal. No toppings, fillings, butter or additional salt [are needed]. The plain bagel still holds all the flavour it needs. All of the dough is fermented for roughly 48 hours, which adds more intricate flavour to the bagel."
Bagels are available in plain, poppyseed, everything and sesame varieties and mixed bags are also available at $10 for a half dozen and $18 for a dozen.
He also does sesame and poppyseed stuffed bagel buns with tzatziki cream cheese or seven pepper cream cheese fillings for $5 each.
You can also buy the cream cheeses in 250mL containers for $7.
"Although I'm preorder-based, I always make extra dough as a contingency. It just so happens that just about every time I do this I end up selling all of my extra bagels," says Presant.
"[For example,] I made a few extra dozen bagels [including] extra stuffed bagels and extra cream cheese in order to have additional product to shoot. I posted on Instagram that I had extras and within a couple of hours all of my extras had sold out."
Though the pizzeria has now fully reopened as Bar Sugo, Presant is still continuing to sell bagels but is scaling back to doing biweekly drops.
"Since the pizzeria reopened it's been more of a toll on me physically to come and do bagel work on my two days off," says Presant.
"I can fulfill a large amount of orders and not overwork myself to the point where my job and my bagel project suffer as a result."
He's been taking orders via social media and even word of mouth, but moving forward is hoping to create a preorder page accessible through his Instagram.
"I'm extremely grateful to my chef and the owners of the restaurants [who] allowed me to pursue this with virtually no overhead costs, which is incredible," says Presant.
"I'm very lucky that my only expenses are ingredients which has helped me to grow my operations so much in such a short window of time from doing maximum 70 to 80 bagels out of my apartment in a day to 350 on Family Day a few weeks ago."
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