Acclaimed Dallas bagel shop sweeps top awards in New York bagel competition
BagelFest is a celebration dedicated to all things bagel, with bagels, bagel sandwiches, speakers, games, photo ops, and demonstrations — all climaxed by "The Best Bagel" contest with more than two dozen contestants from around the world.
Competing against more than 30 bagel shops from around the world, Starship Bagel swept the festival, showing those New Yorkers what's what by winning the top awards for Best Bagel and Rising Star.
They also came in second place for Best Newcomer, and took third-place awards for Best Shop Outside the Boroughs and for Best Showmanship.
During his announcement, BagelFest founder Sam Silverman remarked on the shocking sweep as well as the shocking reality that the winner was from ... Dallas, Texas.
"It was super super tight until we got to the top place, and this shop ran away with the bagel competition ... it is not a shop from [New York]," he said.
Starship founder Oren Salomon, still animated after going without sleep for 24 hours, says jokingly, "I am still not sure this is real."
"We went into a city that thinks they have the best bagels and proved that they don’t," Salomon says. "I think for them, the fact that it was Texas that beat them might even be worse."
Starship Bagel has enoyed a meteoric rise since Salomon, a young entrepreneur with a true passion for making great bagels, opened his first location in Lewisville at 1108 W. Main St. in 2021.
He gained greater momentum after opening a second location in downtown Dallas at 1520 Elm St., right next to the famous Eye sculpture, in 2023, taking first place in CultureMap's ranking of the Best Bagels in Dallas, then earning national acclaim in June 2023 when he made Bon Appetit's list of "The Very Best Bagels in the U.S." - the only bagel shop in Dallas, or for that matter, Texas, to do so.
Getting to compete in New York against some of the bagel shops in New York was an honor and opportunity, both on a personal level and for his business, but also representing Dallas.
During the competition, he and his team of five spent camped out at Bagel Market, a small chain in New York who lent their kitchen to become Starship's temporary headquarters. The ultimate mission: submit six perfect plain bagels to a panel of five experts who would judge in a blind taste test; plus create 800 samples to serve to the public over the course of the two-day event.
"It's hard because you're in a different environment, with different temperature and humidity, all factors that affect how a bagel comes out," he says. "I wanted to bake at least four to five days in a row to dial it in."
But the bakery lost its gas connection, forcing Salomon to mix and roll the bagels at one location, then transport them at 4 am to another location to be baked.
"At first I was transporting the dough in a taxi, but it seemed wasteful, so I took them on the subway," he says.
Last-minute obstacles like these made the victory all the more sweet.
"For me, starting as a home baker, I have lots of experience with things going wrong, and I think that's part of what it takes to win something like this," he says. "You're good on your best days, but what about the days when all this other shit happens?"
It all turned out to be a worthwhile exercise.
"Sam, the founder, said to me, 'Practice makes perfect - your work paid off'," Salomon says. "He said it wasn’t even close."
For some it's an industry; for Salomon, it's a craft. "I put more passion into my recipes, I'm always chasing what I consider to be best bagel," he says.