Sesame. Poppy. Everything. Those are the typical kinds of bagels people are used to. But what about one that is the color of the rainbow? That’s where Scot Rossillo comes in. The creator of the gorgeous Rainbow Bagel, Scot is making art that bagel-loving people can eat. We stopped by The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, NY to talk to the bagel artist himself about rainbow bagels, staying true to your dreams, and why eating a rainbow can be an emotional (and religious) experience.
Scot, we’re standing here in The Bagel Store, and all I see before me are tons of color. Would you say that the rainbow bagel is your favorite bagel to make?
No, the bagel that I’m working on next is always my favorite.
That’s an amazing answer! But when you were a kid, what did you like?
Sesame, everything, you know, your New York style. But no matter what I touch, I want to enhance it and make it different from anyone else. So when I entered the bagel business, it was a good and a bad time. My father passed away and left me some money. So I got into the business for a while, but bagels are the same throughout the world. I had a love for dough, and that’s what I zeroed in on. Even when no one bought the rainbow bagels, I still made them. I’ve been doing it for 18 years.
What was the tipping point to bringing success to the bagel? Was it Jonathan [Cheban]?
I think he was part of the process. If you want to go back, I think it was when gay marriage became legal in America. That was the beginning point; then Jonathan and his people posting it on social media. And now it’s all over social media. I’m thrilled that the world is loving the rainbow bagel as passionately as I am. It’s just great. For others to see my passions and to accept it—it’s a beautiful thing.
How would you describe the rainbow bagel to someone who’s never had one?
It’s art that you can eat. I take my experiences from life, my creativity, and that’s what I make. That’s what comes out.
It’s true. When we walked in, it was like looking at artwork and we got so happy.
You can go to the MOMA, you can look at art traditionally. But when you touch the art and you eat the art, it becomes part of your DNA. It’s an emotional experience. It’s taking your traditional idea of a bagel and adulterating it.
You’re a dad of six kids. How did your kids factor into your making the bagels?
I wouldn’t say they were test subjects, but they gave me great input. After all, the bagel is for everyone. It’s for adults and kids. And for the adults, it’s for the kid in you.
Do you ever have bagel purists come in and say, “A bagel shouldn’t look like that?”
Yeah, all the time! They’ll even be online too saying it! I just delete it! God don’t like haters! You’re going to have your section of negative folks, but I don’t care. No one in the world is going to say that they don’t like a bagel. They might say that they don’t like the carbs. No one said they hate bagels; that person doesn’t exist!
So how did you decide on the colors? The colors aren’t exactly the colors of the rainbow.
Right. I’m not big on green, so I put turquoise. I don’t like red; I picked purple. I do pink. But this is Scot’s rainbow palette. I do change it up; today I did turquoise for you guys. The good thing is that when you play with color, the color blends. These colors don’t blend.
And all the while, you have Andrea Bocelli playing.
Always. Every day of the week. I used to be a head banger. Every single day, I worry about my soul and my experiences on earth, and I want to increase my mental capacity. Classical music has been proven to do that.
How did you start making the cream cheeses?
Cream cheese and bagels always pair well together. And the cream cheeses come in so many flavors but are also the color of the rainbow to match the bagels. I’ve got pink cream cheese, purple cream cheese, and teal cream cheese. And it’s beyond just that. I’ve done a bacon, egg and cheese bagel, then the cragel—it’s just taking flight.
What do you say to people who would be afraid to venture out of their culinary comfort zone? Like, me, for example. I’m afraid to cook with yeast.
I know some chefs who are like that. I love baking; I graduated from the French Culinary Institute. I learned the biology behind this. I learned from many bagel makers, and then I take all that traditional and classic schooling and I make it my own.
Did you ever bring your kids here and try to incorporate them into the business?
I have, but it’s a labor of intense love. You have to be focused and disciplined. You can’t wake up and say you’re tired. Or you don’t want to be creative. You have to be on 24/7. I love this; I have another bagel store and a yogurt store out east. As an artist, I took on the responsibility of never taking off. Because the phone is never off. And as I work, I’m always thinking of something else. Last night, I made a wonton cheeseburger. I do double decker Sicilian pies, anything you can think of. Here, try some cannoli cream cheese.
[Tasting the cannoli cream cheese.) This is sick how good this is.
See, you can’t come here to lose weight. You have to come The Bagel Store if you want to have fun.
Does it ever get tired, Scot? Do you ever get bored of bagels?
Never, ever, ever, ever, never. It’s a part of who I am. And as much color as there is, every night I wipe it all down, so you never knew I was here. That’s the beautiful part of it. Other artists can work with mess and colors all over the place; I can’t. Every day, I start all over. The process begins again. And that’s a beautiful thing.