Table Talk: Mary Ting Hyatt of Bagelsaurus
Welcome to Table Talk, a series where we get to know your favorite local food industry professionals.
The rise of Bagelsaurus from weekly Brookline pop-up to Porter Square hotspot may not phase you anymore. Baker extraordinaire Mary Ting Hyatt has spent almost four years turning her chewy creations into jumbo sandwiches and pizza bagels (now a Monday staple), to much delight. But perhaps the best measure of her cult success is how many devotees simply eat their bagels with a swipe of butter or cream cheese. Simplicity and patience are key at the bakery: Just as Hyatt leaves her five-ingredient bagels to ferment overnight, those making the pilgrimage to her shop should expect to wait, as lines normally snake out the door. But trust us—the journey is worth it after the first bite.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s your favorite ingredient?
Sorry to be boring, but butter and flour. I’m a baker, so that’s what I like to play around with.
What kitchen tools have you worn out at the restaurant?
Our roasting pan, which we boil all of our bagels in, gets a lot of wear and tear. [And] both of our mixers, which is amazing because we used to mix [our bagels] all by hand at Cutty’s when I was doing the pop-up. That gets a lot of much-appreciated use.
What’s the secret to the perfect bagel?
Everyone’s idea of a perfect bagel is different. But for me, those tiny, crackly bubbles on the crust are essential.
How do you eat your bagels?
Fifteen minutes out of the oven, with mustard butter.
What moment made you realize you wanted to be a baker?
It really all started with my semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [I] spent the entire five months exploring cafés and restaurants. On top of that, my host family made the most wonderful desserts, which I immediately tried to replicate when I returned to the states.
I actually went to cooking school directly out of college. I wanted to be a high school English teacher, but I didn’t get any of the positions I wanted, so I decided to go for my dream—culinary school—thinking that nothing would really come of it. I just started working at restaurants right after and totally fell in love with it.
What really drew me to baking, more than the subject matter, were the hours: I knew I wanted to make food, but I didn’t want to work at night. I didn’t want to wait until 2 p.m. to go to work, and then work until midnight. So I fell in love with the early mornings of baking and I loved working with yeast. Just seeing things transform in the oven the way they do was magical.
If you could grab coffee with anyone, who would it be and why?
Ina Garten. I’d love to be friends.
What music do you rock in the kitchen?
I rely on the music of my cool employees more than I do my own [laughs]. They have better tastes than I do. It also varies depending on who the baker is [that day]. Personally, I love to listen to Robyn and Abba—but not everyone else does.
Sweet or Savory?
Sweet. Easy. My favorite food is ice cream: I would eat that every day if it was available to me. I love sweet breakfast pastries, too.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Cookies and cream is up there. Anything mocha or coffee is, too. And I love anything, and everything, banana-related. I guess that’s also one of my favorite ingredients [laughs].
If you could collaborate with anyone locally, who would it be?
I really admire the women of the Oleana/Sofra/Sarma group: Ana [Sortun], Cassie [Piuma], and Maura [Kilpatrick]. I love their flavors, and their food is something I don’t know a lot about, but I really admire it and love that they continue to develop it and introduce people to new things. It’s [also] interesting and cool how they’ve expanded and created something very new each time.
What’s your most memorable meal you’ve had?
It’s nothing fancy. It’s a meal my family had over and over again at this wonderful Chinese restaurant, Tung Yen, in my home state of Delaware. We would snack on fried noodles while my grandfather would proudly order for all of us in Chinese. Then, we would feast on hot and sour soup, pan-fried dumplings, Szechuan chicken, and beef with broccoli. The restaurant is gone now, but I can still taste it all.
Bagelsaurus, 1796 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 857-285-6103, bagelsaurus.com.