The Controversial Origin Of The Everything Bagel

New York is famous for satisfying comfort foods that you can eat with one hand or on the run: a slice of pizza, a distinctively New York hot dog, a deli sandwich for a hangover, and of course, the breakfast of champions: everything bagels. Bagels are taken so seriously in New York City that the group behind the site Everything is Everything spent over a year reviewing and ranking 202 bagel shops, purely based on their everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.

Bagels are deceptively simple: the dough is made using flour, salt, water, yeast and malt, formed into its distinctive round shape with a hole in the middle, then boiled and baked (via The Atlantic). According to "The Bagel: the Surprising History of a Modest Bread," bagels most likely came about when German immigrants introduced pretzels to Poland in the 14th century. Once there, the pretzels were unfolded to a simpler circular form, which was called an obwarzanek. Another origin story posits that a Viennese baker created the bagel in 17th century Austria to pay tribute to the Polish King at the time.

According to History, Polish Jewish immigrants brought bagels to New York City in the early 1900s. Then, sometime during the '70s and '80s, the everything bagel was added to the flavor roster. It quickly exploded in popularity, and there are many who claim to be the first to create the iconic taste.

The taste of everything

Despite the connotation of the word "everything," the speckled bagel is topped with a spice mix of just five ingredients: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, garlic, and salt, per Gotham Bagels. The five spices in the everything bagel blend work together to create an intense flavor profile, along with an uber-satisfying crunchy texture since the spice mix is toasted. Often paired with cream cheese, the everything bagel is a dense and hearty breakfast that will tide you through lunch if necessary.

The everything bagel is seemingly popular with mostly everyone, too. Time Out reports that amongst New Yorkers, the most ordered bagel type on GrubHub in 2021 was the everything bagel, with cinnamon and onion trailing behind in second and third place. Everything bagel supremacy has a fixed place in food culture (and is even a philosophical object in pop culture movies), so it's no surprise that no less than four people claim to be its inventor.

Joe Bastianich has solid ties to the everything bagel

American restaurateur and "MasterChef" host Joe Bastianich made the bold claim in his 2012 memoir "Restaurant Man" that he is the inventor of the everything bagel. The culinarian told Taste that his first job was delivering newspapers, and along his route, he was offered a job at Bagel Den in Bayside, Queens. 

In his memoir, Bastianich described his everything bagel innovation as a stoner's stumbling approach, utilizing all the fallen spices from the bagel production line (via Washington Post). He claimed that this happy, drug-induced burst of genius took place in 1979 and after he stopped working at the bagel shop, he basically forgot about it. However, now that the flavor is universally loved, he is quick to stake his claim.

Several other everything bagel origin stories contradict Bastianich's, but when asked about it in an interview with Bon Appetit, Bastianich doubled down on his claim to everything bagel fame: "No, I definitely invented the everything bagel. There's no doubt. It's undeniable truth. It's one of those things that's 100% true, 50% of the time."

David Gussin casually lays claim to the bagel

In 2008, The New Yorker profiled a self-described "struggling altruistic entrepreneur" and New York native named David Gussin who had launched an advertising business. On his business' website, he claimed that he invented the beloved everything bagel when he was just 15 years old. His origin story takes place at Howard Beach in 1980, where he had a gig at a take-out place that offered typical bagel flavors: plain, poppy, sesame, onion, salt, garlic, and cinnamon raisin. At closing time, one of his duties was to clean up the burnt seeds from the bottom of the oven. He enjoyed snacking on the burnt seeds and eventually convinced the owner to make a new bagel flavor with the mix.

According to Gussin, the everything bagel took off in popularity shortly thereafter. In fact, Gussin insists that a copycat bagel quickly popped up in nearby Lindenwood and within a year, it was "everywhere". At one point the entrepreneur owned the domain name "," but after a few years, he stopped keeping up with it (via Taste). 

Seth Godin, the marketing king, threw his hat in the ring

Before Seth Godin became an entrepreneur and best-selling author of enormously popular marketing books, he had the humble origins of being a bagel factory employee. Soon after David Gussin's everything bagel invention claim was made public by The New Yorker, Godin published a short and blunt response on his blog. "Unfortunately for Dave, I worked in a bagel factory in 1977," Godin wrote. The entrepreneur added that said bagel factory produced everything bagels a full three years before Gussin's alleged 1980 creation.

Godin spoke to Serious Eats with skepticism of Gussin's origin story — namely at the burnt aspect of the seeds — and recounted a much more casual invention of just sprinkling seeds on top. Though he seemed worked up about Gussin's competing claim to the bagel, Godin didn't bother to reach out to The New Yorker for a retraction. Godin published his blog post in 2008, and eight years later, yet another man wrote a blog post, claiming to be the inventor of the everything bagel.

Brandon Steiner stakes the earliest claim

The fourth man to lay claim to the everything bagel is Brandon Steiner: a sports executive, author, and media personality. In his 2016 blog post simply titled "I Invented The Everything Bagel", he tells his childhood tale of delivering newspapers, along with bagels and milk. The bagel store owner then hired Steiner as a part-time baker, and during one shift he experimented with the toppings and had the idea to "throw all the toppings on a bagel at once." This idea came to him in 1973, which to his knowledge, is the earliest stake in everything bagel history.

No matter which origin story is true, one thing is certain: the American appetite for everything seasoning is not going anywhere. If you need proof, look at how quickly Jeni's Everything Bagel Ice Cream sold out. Or, for those who are not quite ready for something as cavalier as bagel ice cream, places like Inglorious Bagels in San Diego are pushing the boundaries of the beloved bagel even further by adding jalapeño slices and melted cheese.