Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to a tour of The Western Bagel Company in Van Nuys. The Bagel that Won the West! In order to protect all company techniques and recipes, photos were not allowed
after we passed the front room. So you won’t see much of the Factory’s machines and bagels.
In the parking lot, the kids first learned the four ingredients that go into every batch of bagels – Flour, Water, Yeast and Sugar (just enough sugar to activate the yeast). Two giant tanks stood in the parking lot, filled with flour that we would see piped in to add to the batter. But as we stood there we could smell bagels – yum and the trash bin - not so yum.
Once in the building, our first order of business was to don the attractive blue bonnets to ensure our hair, if prone to flying free from our heads, did not make for a future lawsuit. This was an adventure in itself. Click on each image below for fun videso of the action.
Then the tour inside the factory began. We first witnessed a batch of dough that would make 6,000 bagels being mixed by blades instead of giant wooden spoons. Ingredients beyond the FAB Four were measured and added. After a few moments that batter was cut free and dropped with a heavy thump into a big bin that was raised slowly, like a roller coaster reaching the top of the ride. And at the top it was dumped into another machine which cut it up into palm-sized pieces. Still, nothing looked like bagels.
But once these squarish pieces went through the next machine, the dough came out round like bagels. Once formed by hand like Original Western bagel man – Steve Ustin in photo, now much of the process is automated. The rest of our tour was about following our bagels on carts or conveyor belts enjoying toppings, moisture, heat, cold, rejection, and bags.
We were happy to learn that the bagels that didn’t meet company standards were not tossed into a dump, but instead become part of the diet for nearby farm animals.
As the tour ended and we returned our blue bonnets for another tour’s use, we all mobilized for a group walk to the nearest Western Bagel store a few blocks away. Each child received a mini-bagel and the rest of us with cash bought our favorites. YUM!
If you would like to make your own bagels at home I found a great recipe. Click on this four part picture for the blog/website that will walk you gently through the steps. If you do try your hand at it, would you bring me one to try?