Connecticut native Sasha Moraski, 27, left a TV career in Los Angeles to launch a bagel business on the East Coast. What started as a casual hobby, baking for friends, turned into Be Okay Bagels, now a pop-up inside of Little Dipper in Jamaica Plain.
“My family works in the medical field, so it felt very important for me to be closer to home during this time,” she says.
She hopes to strike out on her own in the coming months, peddling non-traditional flavors like sage cheddar and French onion soup.
How did your bagel business begin?
I’ve been doing this for almost a year, during quarantine. I was living in LA and chose to move once COVID hit. I started making bagels for fun and would give them to friends. The slow evolution happened where I began selling them, and here we are now.
Basically, I pride myself on the traditional bagels: plain, everything, sesame, poppy seed — but every week, I try to showcase more of an experimental flavor or something not commonly seen in a lot of other bagel shops. For example, this week I’m doing sage cheddar, which is great, as well as our Sriracha and roasted garlic. I pride myself on doing new flavors and pushing the bar on what to expect with a bagel and how to do new things. Bagels are the medium to do really cool flavors.
What is it about bagels and not, say, scones?
It’s a really good question and a hard one to answer. I think that bagels have always interested me. Growing up on the East Coast, bagels are a staple food for communities, and I have come to realize every town has their staple bagel shop. It’s based on creating community space through food. Aside from people with allergies to gluten, who doesn’t love a good bagel? I just find that they offer a lot of leeway to modify and add my own ingredients that a lot of other pastries, because of their delicacy, don’t offer.
How did you launch the business?
I’m a pop-up out of Little Dipper and in the process of finding my own storefront. It will be a few months from now. They’re wonderful. When I moved back to JP permanently, I had a job working in TV and could do it remotely. But that ended in September. I was looking for work and to meet new people, and I always loved Tres Gatos so much, and I actually ended up working at their record store for three months. During that time, I was making bagels out of my house but would bring them to the Tres Gatos family, including Dave [Doyle], the owner. He was so kind and generous offering me the time and space that [sister restaurant] Little Dipper had to do the pop-up. It all started at a record store.
How would you describe the food scene and your clientele in Boston?
With LA, they do have a lot more freedom with ingredients due to the produce selection, which poses a few more issues. I am trying to focus on doing things in season here, so I can shop local, especially produce-wise. But the food scene here is incredible.
It’s a little difficult during quarantine, but I have done my fair share of research and takeout; from what I have experienced, there’s a lot of really cool chefs doing really cool things. Especially as a woman-owned business, I try to focus on other women-owned restaurants, like Oleana and Sarma, which are so good up in Somerville. I love them dearly.
The JP restaurant scene is the same; there’s so much cool food being made at Tres Gatos, at Brassica. Those restaurants are taking things to a whole new level. As for the clientele I’ve had, I think being specifically in the JP neighborhood has been such a blessing. The JP community has been nothing but supportive for me. I know I’m very lucky; the love and gratitude I get, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
What are your best-sellers?
I must say, except for lactose-intolerant people, any of my cheesy bagels are seen as the top ones. People praise my jalapeno cheddar, which I understand. Unlike a lot of places, I incorporate it into the dough, to give it a little extra flavor. And my French onion soup bagel has thyme and roasted garlic in the dough, topped with caramelized onions and melted white cheddar. And everybody loves an everything bagel.
How did you get started?
My high school had a pretty intensive culinary program you could sign up for. Doing so, you would get college credits to Johnson & Wales. I did two out of the three years of that program, but the idea of committing to a solid full-on career in high school scared me, so I chose to focus energy elsewhere. But I think that experience itself gave me a good understanding of how to work in a kitchen, etiquette-wise, and how to prepare yourself. It truly is a giant career change. I have always been the home chef. I have always been the person who hosts a dinner party for friends (obviously not during COVID). I love trying new foods and making new foods. It was just a giant career change from being a home chef and someone who does this in their spare time to trying this as a full-time career.
When you’re not working, where do you eat?
I currently have a Google map of all the restaurants I want to try when everything opens up: Bondir, Oleana, Sarma, Saltie Girl, Field & Vine, Brassica — I really want to do a sit-down experience there because it seems so amazing. One of the top ones on my list is Fox & the Knife, another female-owned business. For takeout, Pikalo, which has some of the best empanadas I’ve ever had; Blue Nile, some of the best Ethiopian I have ever had; and El Oriental de Cuba, which has amazing Cuban food.
What’s your biggest quarantine vice?
We have a Nintendo Switch, and Mario Party is my biggest vice right now. And literally all the board games.
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.