The Guy “Behind” the Viral Paleo Bagel Is in Deep Trouble
This post has been updated with a comment from Steven Friedman of Bedrock Bakers.
When we wrote a piece on everything you need to know about “Pagels,” the gluten-free, Paleo bagels taking Instagram by storm, we were unaware of one major caveat: There is a lot of drama around ownership of the original recipe.
We’d go as far as to say that the supposed creator of the Pagel is in a bit of a pickle.
While Bedrock Bakers might be the first company to mass produce “Pagels” and sell them nationwide, they’re under fire for claiming to have invented this take on a Paleo “bagel.” (And yes, between the ontology of ownership and the question of “what is a Paleo bagel anyway?” we are wearing out the quotation mark key on our keyboards for this story.)
In a conversation with Kitchn, the company founder Steven Friedman admitted that after having discovered the magic of cassava flour while on a wellness retreat in St. Lucia, he returned home to “research recipes from various bloggers, chefs, and cookbooks. From that the Pagel was born.” Unfortunately, we’re hearing now that he may not have given credit where credit was due.
The Other Side of the Story
Back in 2014, the Paleo bloggers teamed up to create a Jewish Paleo cookbook called The New Yiddish Kitchen, featuring a bagel recipe. “We had worked for many months on it and spent countless hours developing our authentic grain-free, Paleo bagel; something which had not really been done in the Paleo community prior to that,” they told us.
“We even had access to cassava flour, prior to Otto’s Cassava Flour official marketplace launch. We finally perfected this recipe for a chewy, crispy boil-and-bake Paleo bagel, and since the ebook was so successful, we were able to get it published as a print book in March 2016 through our publisher.”
It didn’t take long for news of their bagel to circulate throughout the grain-free community. “Just prior to the official book release, we started getting messages from ‘Paleo King’ on Instagram, also known as Steven Friedman (founder of Bedrock Bakers), who was very enthusiastic about the Paleo bagels we had been posting on social media, teasing our audiences about our upcoming book release. He shared with us that he was launching a Paleo bakery in New York and couldn’t wait to see our bagel recipe, because he planned to sell a bagel at Bedrock Bakers,” Robins and Miller tell us.
Unfortunately, according to Robins and Miller, Friedman was not forthcoming about the status of his own recipe: “When I pushed him to find out if he already had a recipe and why he was so enthusiastic about seeing ours, he admitted that he had not been able to nail a recipe, even after experimenting. After we sent out advance copies of our book to bloggers in our community, Steven posted a photo of our bagels on his Instagram account talking about how amazing they were and how he was really impressed by the texture, taste, and authenticity.”
“When I asked him whose recipe he was using, he private messaged me and said ‘Surely you jest, it’s yours silly.’ We later found out that one of the bloggers shared the recipe with him before the book release, not realizing his intent.”
The situation escalated further when Friedman no longer made clear the fact that it was not his original recipe. “Soon thereafter, he began to take ownership of it, and weeks later, he was selling our bagels as his recipe outright. When we visited his website for the bakery, we scrutinized the ingredients and the list and formula matched identically in every way.”
“Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who do not know that this entire business is built on the back of our hard work.”
While recipes generally cannot be copyrighted, so technically there is not a legal violation at stake, we do find the whole situation concerning. We asked Friedman for a response and he told us, “I am NOT a thief.” He acknowledged that the recipe did help inspire his company, “Did they and other authors inspire me to create the pagel? It certainly did.” But he insists that there is a difference between a cookbook recipe and his ready-to-eat-product: “Out preparations and procedures in the kitchen are far removed from their recipe. Their customers want to bake. My customers want their food prepared. Since when is there not room for both in a wholesale or retail venue?”
If you wish to support the original creators of the Paleo bagel, check out a copy of The New Yiddish Kitchen.