Most college students are fast asleep at 5 a.m. on a Saturday. However, on most weekends during his first year, Jasper Gordon ’21 would be in the Burnett House kitchen baking a fresh batch of bagels for friends.
“There’s something so fun about being there at an ungodly hour, blasting music and just working,” Gordon said in a phone interview with the Orient.
Gordon started baking bagels during his first semester at Bowdoin. He found himself 3,000 miles away from his hometown and, like many first years, a little homesick. Gordon grew up in a family of cooks and bakers, and he found that baking reminded him of home. His original plan was to bake bread, but when Gordon realized that he didn’t have the equipment to bake bread, he decided to try making bagels.
Gordon lived in a first-year brick, so after some friends who were residents of Burnett House offered him their space, he began using their kitchen for bagel-making.
“I think Burn people really like it because no matter what mess they made that Friday night they’d wake up in the morning and all the dishes [would] be done, and I’d always put honey in the water when I was going to [make] bagels, so the smell would waft throughout the house,” said Gordon. “I think they all woke up a bit hungover but to a really pleasant smell.”
Although an experienced bread baker, Gordon’s first batch did not exactly yield perfect results.
“They looked terrible—they were barely a circle, they didn’t have a hole—but I was surprised by how easy it was to get a flavor that I liked,” he said. “That got me hooked on them.”
Word of Gordon’s bagels quickly spread on Bowdoin’s small campus, and he began to take requests through a Google form. Soon, his hobby turned into a small business—Jasper’s Bagels. His customers are mostly students and family friends, but he has fulfilled orders from interested Brunswick residents and even one of the deans’ office.
As Jasper’s Bagels grew, Gordon had to work to balance his budding business with extracurriculars and school. He doesn’t have a consistent baking schedule, and when he is able to fit a batch in, he’ll post the order link on his Instagram. Despite the occasional stress of juggling his work-life balance, delivering the fresh bagels has become one of Gordon’s favorite parts about the whole process.
“It was a kind of cool way of meeting people because every once-in-a-while I would get an order from someone I never heard of,” Gordon said.
Gordon acknowledges that everyone has an opinion on the “perfect” bagel, but for him, it’s simple: a fresh-out-of-the-oven, chewy-airy plain bagel with no toppings. Customers can order typical bagel options—plain, everything, sesame and poppy seed. Occasionally, Gordon will add different flavors, such as cinnamon-sugar or cinnamon-raisin.
However, there are other experimental bagels that haven’t made the order form yet but may one day find their way onto the list. One of his more recent inventions is a “fragel”—deep-fried bagel dough with raisins, topped with cinnamon and sugar—inspired by a bagel shop in Michigan.
“It might have been like the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. But it’s such a mess to make it with all the oil and all [the] stuff, and you really have to eat it within five or 10 minutes.”
As for where Jasper’s Bagels is headed next, Gordon is unsure. However, he does know baking will always be part of his life.
“I really do like the bagels,” said Gordon. “I think my dream has always been to have a cute little pizza shop, like me and two … friends just kind of [making] literally just one-dollar slices someplace near a beach.”