Bross Bagels: the extraordinary success of a small chain in Edinburgh

Interview with Larah Bross: ex comedian, she's now the town's queen of bagels. And recently decided to rely on the perfect baking of Moretti Forni

29-01-2021
The window and sign of one of the Bross Bagels s

The window and sign of one of the Bross Bagels shops in Edinburgh (all photos are from @schnappsphoto)

From stage to bakery: this is the road that Larah Bross took, becoming the owner of Bross Bagels, the first place in Edinburgh, Scotland, to interpret this extraordinary specialty. Her story is the story of a sudden and unexpected success, a turning point marked in her life which exceeded any expectation: today she runs six places in town, and she'll open the seventh in the spring, with a very ambitious project, supported also through a very successful crowdfunding campaign.

And since a few weeks ago, the production at Bross Bagels has a new "ally": a serieS Moretti Forni, which recently arrived across the Channel and to which Larah Bross gave a fun name: Big Betty Moretti. We interviewed Larah – she has a nickname as well, Mama Bross – and asked her to tell us about her nice (and delicious) story.

Larah Bross

Larah Bross

How did you become Edinburgh's queen of bagels?
By chance! I come from Montréal, in Canada, the real homeland of bagels: it's in my hometown that you can eat the best bagels in the world. And here in Scotland I could never find any good ones. After looking everywhere for a decent bagel, I decided I should open a shop and start to make them myself. At first, I imagined something not very demanding: my idea was to open a small café, a place to which I could dedicate part of my time, without entirely abandoning my career as an actress. Instead... from the first day we opened, people were queuing outside: everyone wanted our bagels! We opened a first place in August 2017, three years and a few months later, we have six and, in the spring of 2021, we'll have seven.

So you no longer act, and don't do stand-up comedy?
No, I wouldn't have the time. To tell you the truth: today, with the pandemic putting the showbusiness on its knees, I can only be happy about the revolution bagels brought in my life...

Bagels are considered a product difficult to bake, not really an adventure to take on light-heartedly. How would you describe the work you have done to reach such high standards?
At first, when I imagined how it would go, I had a romantic idea in mind. I imagined myself kneading, baking the bagels in a wood oven in my home garden and then bring the products early in the morning to my shop. Luckily nothing of the sort ever happened, I would have not survived day one. I started from scratch, I had no experience with breadmaking, so I soon realised I could not do everything by myself...

So what did you do?
I started looking for a baker who could work with me. I contacted this organic bakery in Edinburgh, and we started studying the recipe together: I asked my mother to send me via FedEx what I believe are the best bagels in Montréal, those from St Viateur. When they arrived, I took them to the lab and we tasted them and started experimenting: after a few weeks we found a recipe of which we were very satisfied. This collaboration continued for a couple of years. A few months ago, instead, we decided to manage the production by ourselves. So we have worked on the recipe again, as we no longer use only organic ingredients, and I believe the result is much better. And then, since we got Moretti Forni's serieS the quality has increased exponentially.

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How did you find out about Moretti Forni?
Thanks to a Scottish firm that sells professional equipment: I told them my needs, showed a video of how they bake bagels in Montréal and the immediately recommended Moretti Forni

And it seems you are very happy with this choice...
I'm enthusiastic: baking on refractory stone gives us extraordinary results. It's only been a few weeks and we've immediately realised that, for instance, the shelf-life of our bagels has tripled: they stay soft and humid much longer, it's truly impressive. We only got it recently, so things can only improve further, but we're thrilled of how, thanks to its ease of use and the precision with which we can control the temperature, we can play with the baking, always obtaining the result we hope for. On top of this, this oven has allowed us to make the production much faster, hence to increase it. So much so that now we'll be able to sell part of our bagels even in other places in town: hotels, bars, shops. 

The arrival of Big Betty Moretti in Edinburgh

The arrival of Big Betty Moretti in Edinburgh

Bross Bagels has always been environmentally friendly: for instance, you recycle 75% of what you use in your shops and labs. Did this sensitivity lead you to appreciate Moretti Forni even more?
Absolutely: we significantly reduced our energy consumption with the simple arrival of our serieS, which also offers a series of functions that reduce energy waste even further. The dispersion of heat is minimal. And we also appreciated the availability of the Italian factory. We needed to change one aspect of the oven: we needed the doors of the oven to open upwards, not downwards. Moretti Forni customised our serieS to meet our needs. 

Do you think that, thanks to this new equipment too, you can now diversify your production of baked products?
For now we have focused on bagels but yes, we want to experiment new things too. Like brownies, but also babkas, pretzels... We'll have fun: all the people who work with us are happy about our Big Betty Moretti.

And you also organised a very successful crowdfunding: how come you launched this project?
When we started working on the new opening, which will be the largest shop we've ever opened, we realised we needed more funds. But we also thought we didn't want to ask banks: why not ask the people of Edinburgh, who have supported us so much over the years, to take part in our history? We offer them two options: they can either donate 100 pounds, which give you the right to exclusive events and special offers, or donate 1000 pounds. In the latter case, we guarantee a coupon worth 100 pounds each year for four years. And in four years' time we will give back the entire sum of 1000 pounds they invested on us. In this case too the response of the public exceeded our expectations, and we can't wait to welcome our clients in the new shop, which will open in spring. 

Don’t miss the exhilarating promotional video with which Larah Bross presents the crowdfunding: you can find it here. After all, from a comedian who turned into the Scottish queen of bagels we could expect no less!


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