FOLEY— Armed with flour, yeast and malt, Bagel Boy is hoping to fill a void in Foley's breakfast food scene.Alex Warner moves about the kitchen inside Katy's Catering, weighing flour, malt, …
FOLEY— Armed with flour, yeast and malt, Bagel Boy is hoping to fill a void in Foley's breakfast food scene.
Alex Warner moves about the kitchen inside Katy's Catering, weighing flour, malt, yeast, water and salt. He adds the simple ingredients into a large mixer and hits the on button. Dough hooks work the dry ingredients into a dough that is then hand rolled into bagels. He jokes that he needs someone with smaller hands to roll the bagels so he can get more out of a batch.
The dough circles go into a proofing box to slowly rise for 24 hours before they take a bath in a hot water solution that gives them the hard shell and the soft, chewy inside. The bagels will finish off in the oven. Each bagel is a tasty labor of love.
Warner has spent the last few weeks readying the kitchen and hiring staff. He has spent months testing recipes. He has acquired a legion of fans since May when he held his first pop up shop at the Copper Kettle. Every new post on the Bagel Boy Foley Facebook page gets dozens of comments inquiring when and where they can get a bagel. The community response has surprised him.
"We did three pop ups. I didn't expect the community response," Warner said. "The first pop up was in May. All I had done was post it on Facebook, I think I had 100 friends on there and it was probably all my family. We had a line out the door at 8 a.m. It was insane, but it was great to get that under our belt and know what we can and can't do. We baked 230 bagels which was a huge overshot of what I thought we were going to do, and we sold out in one hour."
Most recently, on July 29, Bagel Boy Foley opened the drive-thru for the first time to sell 200 bagels made during staff training. They were gone in 35 minutes. Doing the math, Warner realized that would be 1,000 bagels a day if he is open from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m.
"That was another great learning experience, but I am getting super nervous. But I'm also ready," Warner said.
Warner has been training for opening day for a long time. His experience in restaurants began as a teen in Foley. His mother and aunt own the Copper Kettle Teabar, a Foley institution. At the ripe old age of 18 he decided to move to Seattle, Washington, for a few years. Home beckoned and he returned to Foley to bartend and was on the team that opened the restaurant at the Magnolia Hotel. Next, the mountains called, and he landed in Denver, Colorado, and fell in love.
"I wanted something bigger, to be able to go to shows and have a night life. I lived in Denver for eight years. I worked in a lot of really awesome restaurants with a bunch of really awesome chefs, and I bartended the whole time," Warner said.
Like many that work in the food industry, he wanted something of his own and wanted to be close to family again. He came back to Foley, and everything started to fall into place.
He fell in love with baking, opened a bakery and had a child with his wife, Kelsey. He made cakes and cookies for customers and baked items for the Copper Kettle. While he loved it, the flooded market and increasing ingredient costs made him rethink things.
"It got to where I had to ask myself can I justify selling someone a 9-inch cake for $120? When I started the bakery, a 60-pack of eggs from Walmart was $7.92 and now it is like $16 or $17," Warner said.
A local bakery start-up contacted him to see if he had experience making bagels. He didn't, but he had a good friend in Denver, Colorado, who owns three bagel shops. Off to Denver he went for a bagel making intensive.
"Cookies and cakes are easy and that is why a lot of people do it here," Warner said. "Bread is not. It is a whole different beast, but I liked that and the challenge of it. It is something you have really got to love to make it work. It changes all the time. If it is 75 degrees in here today and 80 degrees tomorrow, the bagels will turn out differently."
When Warner speaks about making bagels, his face lights up and his excitement is contagious. He said he really wants to bring the fresh, hot bagel experience he enjoyed in Seattle and Denver to his hometown. A hometown that he has a newfound passion to see it grow into its potential. He said the birth of his first child made him more civic-minded.
"This is the one place where the downtown hasn't been built up yet. It is crazy to me. There are so many beautiful buildings that are just owned by people who aren't doing anything with it. Now is the time to change this place," Warner said.
He hopes that Bagel Boy Foley will fill the bagel void in the Foley breakfast scene. While the pop ups were a trial on a small scale, the current location is also a trial. Bagel Boy Foley, which officially opened Thursday, Aug. 11, is in the Katy's Catering building on N. McKenzie Street and is drive-thru only. Warner has the location until December while he scopes out a more permanent location. He envisions a place where customer can come in, see all the bagels, order and hang out. He also envisions that location in his beloved downtown Foley.
Warner also has some fun things planned for Bagel Boy Foley, like baking classes for adults and Foley school students.