Labor of love pays off in taste

Betsy PickleOur Town Eats

Marshall Goldman loves bagels. He really loves bagels.

“My wife says it’s the only food that I’m weirdly snobby about,” says Goldman.

Yummy-looking Goldman Bagels

So during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when his work at the University of Tennessee Athletics Department was on hold, he taught himself to make bagels. New York-style bagels. Boiled and baked, not steamed. Chewy, not dry.

He made them for family and friends. Then friends wanted him to teach them how to make bagels, so he started having small classes at his West Knoxville home.

Along the way, a friend who heads Century Harvest Farm Foundation in Greenback asked him to teach classes there to people in recovery and returning home from incarceration. They also started thinking about launching a small-batch bagel business.

Earlier this month, Goldman Bagels officially opened its doors. Its car doors, that is. Goldman makes the bagels in Greenback and delivers them to his customers at the parking lot of Toddy’s Backdoor Tavern, 4951 Kingston Pike in Bearden. He has to make the drop-offs between 8 and 9 a.m. to be able to get to his day job at UT.

The business plan is fairly simple. Customers go to the business’s website to order at least one day in advance. Bagels are sold in half-dozens and dozens, but early each morning on the company’s Facebook page, Goldman posts whether he has any extras for sale.

There’s a standard menu, but he also takes requests.

No two handmade bagels look alike.

“It’s pretty cool,” he says. “If someone wants something and they put it in the comments and we have the ability to do it … we’ll make it and see if it works, and then we’ll try to sell it. The other day, I made a bacon-cheddar one and posted it, and people went berserk.”

A request for Italian herbs and cheese bagels turned into a favorite on the menu.

“That’s the fun of this kind of small-batch-to-order,” says Goldman. “We can get away with it because we limit it to (only) so many.”

Goldman’s family moved to Knoxville from the Northeast when he was 3. His parents are Mitch and Margy Goldman, and all of his siblings also have “M” names – Mischa, Meredith and Matt.

“Everything growing up was an M&M theme,” he says with a laugh.

Goldman attended Sequoyah Elementary and Webb middle and high schools. He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by choosing Brandeis University, near Boston, for his undergraduate studies before returning to Knoxville for graduate school at UT. That’s when he got into working as a swimming coach at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center.

He was coaching when he met his wife, Dr. Talia Nutting, a dentist.

“Meeting her made me question my coaching lifestyle with always being on, etc., so I transitioned into running the facility and helping out with the operations of the swim team so that my hours became more family friendly,” he says. Their 2-year-old, Hope, loves Daddy’s bagels.

“I miss coaching, but it’s been a great change, and I’ve got the world’s best boss.”

Margy Goldman preps a batch of bagels with son Marshall.

Goldman doesn’t have a boss when he’s making bagels, but he’s got a great team, starting with his mother.

“It has been amazing,” he says. “She just kind of jumped in to help me, once she saw after the first night how many orders we were actually getting. She kept calling me, saying, ‘I want to come back,’ so it grew from there. We’ve got a good flow in the kitchen.

“If nothing else comes out of this, then we worked for a month, and nothing will replace the hours of time she and I’ve spent together.

“It’s been a true godsend. You get to your 40s, you don’t often have that kind of time (with your parents). My dad comes some nights and helps. My sister’s come a couple of nights.”

The family is supportive, to put it mildly. “They’re as excited about this as I am.”

Goldman hopes to have another baker on board soon, and if things work out he plans to open a brick-and-mortar store. His brother-in-law is working on a recipe for lox.

His emphasis is on fresh, handmade, authentic New York-style bagels. Goldman says he doesn’t want to knock the Knoxville businesses that claim to make bagels.

“They’re not bagels; they’re just circles of bread,” he says. “Not saying they’re a bad product, they’re just not what they’re supposed to be.”

Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news writer, editor and critic.

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