Among the books that I currently have at my bedside and dip into when I’m a) not futzing around on Twitter, b) not futzing around with game apps on my iPhone, c) not futzing around in the kitchen or d) not asleep is a copy of Joe Bastianich’s just released memoir, “Restaurant Man” (Viking).
The book is a raw, throbbing nerve of a biography: If Bastianich has any intellectual filters, he checks them at the door here, and “Restaurant Man” is the better for it. This memoir is not for the politically correct, the morally rigid or the manicured-fingernail crowd that doesn’t want to see, let alone read about, the seedy, shiv-your-sister-for-good-ingredients underbelly of the high-functioning, high-stress hospitality industry. This is the “Some Girls” of restaurant memoirs; it aims to offend.
Bastianich — partner with Mario Batali in Babbo, Del Posto, Eataly and other restaurants — also makes a bold claim or two, such as this one, starting on Page 27 of the hardback:
“There is no doubt that I invented the ‘everything bagel.’ ” He continues:
This is where stoner mentality meets Restaurant Man’s instinct to be cheap and find ways to use [expletive] you would normally throw out in order to innovate and create a superior product.
When you bake bagels, first you boil them, then you put them on wooden slats, and then you blast them with whatever is their destiny in life: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, that weird onion [expletive], whatever. Underneath the slats is like a big metal trough that catches everything that doesn’t stick to the bagel, which quickly becomes a mess of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, that weird onion [expletive], and everything else. You can see where this is going. One stoned day your newly minted bagel baker was just stoned enough to see the future — and voila, everything bagels. Thank you.
Bastianich doesn’t provide the date of his invention, but unless he created the everything bagel when he was a prepubescent, he’s likely a year or two or three behind others who have made a similar claim to the all-things-to-all-people bagel. For instance, in a 2008 New Yorker piece, one David Gussin says he invented the allium-heavy bagel around 1980, when Bastianich would have been 12. Wrote Michael Schulman for the magazine:
According to Gussin, the name “everything” came instantaneously. “There was no marketing meeting or anything like that,” he said. “It was a one-second thought process. Boom.” The flavor became popular “the next day,” and pretty soon Gussin’s brainchild — minus the burnt-seed concept — had spread to a bagel place over in Lindenwood. Within a year, Gussin said, “the everything bagel was everywhere.”
That New Yorker story inspired a short NPR reaction piece, which quoted a guy named Seth Godin, who poured cold water on Gussin’s claim to bagel fame.On his personal blog, Godin wrote that he worked in a factory that produced, among other rounds, everything bagels. That was in 1977, Godin noted.
These previous claims, however, have only slightly slowed Bastianich’s campaign to install himself as the Master of Everything. In a short Q&A for Bon Appetit last month, Rachel Sanders put the bagel question to Bastianich, who didn’t back down. At least not much.
“No, I definitely invented the everything bagel. There’s no doubt. It’s undeniable truth. It’s one of those things that’s 100% true, 50% of the time.”
Interestingly enough, this vintage film, “Hot Bagels,” makes no mention of everything bagels. The Brooklyn shop, which at the time still produced every single bagel by hand, apparently sold only the standards: garlic, onion, poppy, salt, plain. There’s no date on the film, but from the look of the clothing and the make of the cars, I’d peg this to the mid-1970s.