Beth George, lawyer, baker, and international bagel business consultant, brings a singular focus to all her endeavors: address a need and fulfill it while never compromising on integrity or quality. At first glance, it may seem that being a lawyer and international bagel consultant are worlds’ apart. But the common threads of passion, creativity, and problem-solving weave seamlessly into advocacy, baking, and building a business.
During her time as a child advocate attorney, Beth was troubled by the prevalence of behavioral problems with children and young adults of all ages. Then, two decades ago when her son, Spencer, was 4, she noticed he was experiencing health and behavioral issues similar to those of her clients.
Beth refused to accept the conventional route of multiple diagnoses and “drugging the symptoms,” and instead searched for the underlying cause of her son’s problems. Over several years, she found the answer to be right before her eyes. It was his diet.
“So many foods these days are laden with sugars, high-fructose corn syrups, artificial flavors and coloring, and processed preservatives,” she notes. “We can’t feed kids unhealthy foods and expect them to develop properly.” Also, some kids, like her son, are also sensitive to purely healthy foods like traditional wheat, so she searched for wheat alternatives and found the ancient grain spelt to be the perfect substitute.
Once she implemented a clean diet and addressed nutritional deficiencies, her son’s health and behavior improved to such a degree that, by 5th grade, all “special needs” designations were removed and he was placed in a highly gifted program. Now in his early 20s, he recently graduated with honors with a degree in chemical engineering – a far cry from the prognosis provided by teachers and doctors during his elementary school days.
With diet change as the focus, Beth had to source the best ingredients, and make foods that Spencer and his sisters, Emma and Olivia, would love. Knowing that she needed to learn to make breads to meet Spencer’s dietary specifications, she asked him in 2006 what he was missing most.
His answer was simple: bagels. Beth set out to make the best bagels possible both from traditional wheat and wheat alternatives. Her first foray into commercial bagel making was with the ancient grain spelt, and has since evolved into building formulas with traditional wheat and other grains for clients across the United States and around the globe.
What started as a project to help her family’s health has expanded into a New Jersey based consultancy business known as BYOB BAGELS, with clients from around the world. Beth was encouraged by her bagel mentor Frank Mauro, a 45-year veteran in the bagel industry to teach others the knowledge she has. Together they created BYOB BAGELS, which serves clients throughout the globe, including in the US, Canada, the Bahamas, France, Sweden, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa.
BYOB Bagels stands for “Be Your Own Boss,” “Build Your Own Business,” and “Bake Your Own Bagel,” which is a concept, different than a franchise, that leaves the control of the business in the hands of the entrepreneur. Beth and Frank work together to provide a comprehensive consultancy service starting with space, equipment and utility requirements, and continues with business planning, menu review, and in-person and virtual hands-on training of how to build and perfect bagel formulas.
Beth’s unique story and business model has attracted national and international media attention. In September 2020, The New York Times showcased Beth and BYOB Bagels as the “Great Read of the Day,” with the article gracing the Food Section’s front page and being shared across social media platforms. The coverage prompted multiple national television appearances, including an episode in ABC’s Localish and Bite Size series, a coveted spot on the CBS Sunday Morning Annual Holiday Food Show with Jane Pauley, appearances on the Rachael Ray Show and Positively Brian – News 12-NJ, articles in the London Times, Food52, Linkedin, and Politico and an interview on the nationally syndicated public radio podcast, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Kitchen.
All this attention for a bagel? Yes! Bagels Are Big. And their ingredients are key.
It seems odd that such a simple food containing just five core ingredients -water, flour, malt, salt and yeast – could garner so much attention. But BYOB BAGELS does not teach how to make just an ordinary bagel, but rather how to make an extraordinary one. The bagels formulas are custom built out of passion, using only the best ingredients, and the purest water.
Beth is uncompromising on the ingredients she uses as is evident with her insistence on using pure barley malt.
“100% malted barley extract is the one non-negotiable ingredient I insist upon when building a bagel formula,” she states. And Beth points to another woman-run, New Jersey-based operation, Malt Products Corp., as the standalone supplier of her must-have malt. “There are varieties in the flour, salt, and yeast, but there is no substitute for the malted barley extract.”
Malt Products Corp. manufactures MaltRite™, a portfolio of all-natural nutritive malted barley extract that, when compared with standard sugars or artificial substitutes, offers distinct flavor profiles and various health-related benefits. The range of malted barley extracts comprise multi-functional ingredients that act as natural humectants (moisture absorber), and enhance browning (maillard reaction), fermentation, body and viscosity.
What’s wrong with using a substitute for malted barley extract? According to Beth, pretty much everything. She does not mince words.
“Adding corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup to a bagel is a travesty,” she exclaims. “Adding caramel color to hide the fact that barley malt is not being used only makes it worse. It diminishes the health profile, dilutes the taste, and impacts the texture.” Beth adds that malted barley extract’s unique amino acid profile and oligosaccharides are necessary to achieve ideal texture and crust.
With Malt Products Corp. as her exclusive malted barley extract supplier, sourcing is simple enough. What isn’t simple, according to Beth, is the process. It takes patience and practice to master critical factors in the bagel making process.
For Beth and BYOB Bagels, the results – and the malted barley extract – speak for themselves. She cautions her clients not to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to sourcing malt. “With the proper formulation and processes, there is little or no difference in price, because with 100% malted barley extract, less is more.”
She continues: “I use only clean-label ingredients in my products and when teaching. Malt Products is right there front and center.”