The concept behind the West Broadway bagel shop, Hudson Bagels, is something owners Jessica Wylychenko and Chris Silva had been joking about for several years. In their travels to larger cities, they always found themselves searching for the best bagel spot.
“Bagels weren’t something that we ate regularly. It was more so hunting down the best bagel Montreal or New York had to offer and experiencing the vibe of the shop,” says Jessica Wylychenko, owner of Hudson Bagels.
One Sunday while they were enjoying a coffee along Sherbrook Street, Chris and Jessica noticed a for lease sign on 79 Sherbrook. A couple days later, they toured the space and shortly thereafter signed a lease for August 1, 2020.
The duo already knew exactly how they wanted the space to feel but they faced one major obstacle: a product. With three months of renovations and a November 2020 opening date, they needed to scale-up their 16-bagel recipe to yield hundreds of bagels, and they needed to do it quickly.
In true Winnipeg fashion, through a series of conversations and introductions, Chris and Jessica stumbled upon the Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK).
“Similarly to how we came about finding the space for our shop, it felt very serendipitous discovering this mythical research kitchen on the eleventh floor of RRC’s Paterson GlobalFoods Institute,” says Jessica.
The PRK’s research team put their culinary and baking knowledge to work by scaling-up the company’s recipe as well as developing a signature sourdough bagel. A few weeks into the project, Chris and Jessica paid a visit to the Research Kitchen to check in on the project and, of course, sample some bagels.
“After this meeting, we stopped doing our own trials in our home kitchen. We felt confident entering into a research service agreement and leaving things in the very capable hands of the PRK team and their student assistant.”
The PRK team included a Red River College professional baking student through the entire research project, providing valuable, hands-on experience that they can take back to the food industry. Students represent the growing need in the food service industry for cooks and bakers with enhanced skill sets to help businesses grow. PRK is helping to provide the training necessary for students to become tomorrows’ food professionals.
With PRK at work on finalizing the classic and sourdough bagel recipes, Chris and Jessica had more time to focus on the many other moving pieces of opening up a new business.
Once the recipes were finalized, PRK research chefs created an in-depth process manual, affectionately known as the “Bagel Bible,” by the Hudson Bagels team. In addition to creating a process manual, the PRK team paid a pre-opening visit to the shop to help advise on the equipment and kitchen layout that would work best for their space.
“The Prairie Research Kitchen team helped us put all the pieces of the puzzle together – they were very helpful and flexible. Without their help we would’ve been spinning our wheels to get our head baker ready in the space.”
Opening up a new business comes with its challenges, let alone opening up a business during a pandemic.
“Opening during the second wave of the pandemic was a bit wild, but it was completely worth it from seeing the joy on customers’ faces and the incredible response we’ve received from the community.”
In addition to spreading joy one bagel at a time, Hudson Bagels has created new jobs in Winnipeg’s culinary scene. They currently employ four full-time bakers, three full-time and three part-time prep staff, one full-time as well as four part-time front-of-house team members.