Carl Johnson – a local cook and former Florida Gators offensive guard – started his local bakery business, Egg and Bagel, to provide hearty New England-style bagels, breads, and pastries to the Central Florida community. Egg and Bagel operates at local farmers markets and made-to-order deliveries and catering. For Carl, the principal goal is to provide for the community with a customer-based approach versus money-first. “If you take care of people, the money will come,” Carl tells me. Community-engagement is one of the core pillars of Egg and Bagel, and his dedication to the support of those around him was evident throughout the interview.
Meet Carl — Devoted to the Community Beyond the Business
Carl is originally from Durham, North Carolina, and moved to Gainesville after signing as an offensive guard for the Florida Gators in 2006. He fell in love with the small-town feel of Gainesville and said that it reminded him of his grandpa’s farm with the caring energy of its people and the mom and pop stores that outnumbered corporations at the time. Carl lives by the rule that if you do good things for recognition from others, you’re not doing them out of the kindness of your heart.
With 4 children, Carl and his wife Cali are chiefly involved in promoting financial literacy both for their family and for members of the community at-large. One of Carl’s major goals for the future Egg and Bagel storefront is to create a community center of sorts by drawing people in with their delicious food. If he ever has leftovers after markets, he and his family will bring them to other vendors and give them away for free. “You never know what someone is going through,” he tells me. “Hard times don’t last, but tough people do,” is a motto from his old line coach that has been key to Carl in his Egg and Bagel endeavors. Carl firmly believes in community over competition when it comes to his interactions with other vendors and business owners.
Egg and Bagel — True American Heartiness with New England-Style Baked Goods
After Carl made the decision to hone in on making bagels and breads, he spent months perfecting his recipes, testing them on friends and family members for feedback. Once he found his niche, he knew it was time to take the plunge with Egg and Bagel. Something that inspired me about my meeting with Carl was his tenacity and commitment to creating the best food possible. Everything from Egg and Bagel is made the morning-of, never the night before. Carl wakes up at 1am to get started on the products being sold for the day. “Breads are like taking care of a newborn kitten; you have to be patient, sensitive, mindful, and everything has to be just right.”
Egg and Bagel’s signature is black truffle oil, which is added to the dough phase of the baking process. This allows the truffle oil to ferment into the dough as the yeast activates, giving each baked good a complex umami flavor: savory, smoky, and delicately nuanced. Their menu transcends far beyond bagels, “I always have to ask myself,” Carl says, “what sets me apart from my competitors?” Carl’s flavored baguettes are what sets him apart. “Seasoned baguettes are something that you don’t often see from bakers.” Carl and Cali work together to create blends of flavors like Italian Roasted Garlic, Cajun, and Rosemary Lemongrass to heighten their already outstanding baguettes.
What are New England-Style Bagels?
All Egg and Bagel products are made New England-style, which means they’re baked with the goal of being filling, hearty, and lasting.
The difference between New England-style bagels and New York-style bagels is the preparation process. New England-style bagels are boiled, which ensures that less air is baked into the dough. This means that all Egg and Bagel bagels are substantial, while still maintaining a light and airy texture. The recipes that Egg and Bagel uses are old 1900s recipes – bagels, breads, and pastries have to not only be delicious, but they also must be able to keep people full and satisfied for long periods of time.
Getting the chance to interview Carl and get to know him and his wife was such an inspiring experience. It’s amazing to see small business owners dedicated to not only their craft, but also their community, family, and customers.