Sakura Smith

The Bagel Bunny

Sakura Smith - The Bagel Bunny

Above an Indian market on First Avenue and Fifth Street, Sakura Smith sets a kitchen timer for 15 minutes – she just moved to a two bedroom apartment in the East Village that serves as home and HQ for Bagel Bunny. Started during the pandemic, Sakura takes orders online and through Instagram, either hand delivering each batch of bagels or selecting pick-up times from or around her apartment. Sakura is never 100% certain what the following day’s orders will look like, a spinning wheel of turmeric raisin, leak salt, plum seed, black sesame, or garlic rosemary to name a few. It all depends on the day, the season, the feeling of the city.

Each of these bagels’ origins come from a vegetable yeast which Sakura procured from her Kindergarten teacher – who in turn obtained the starter from a Japanese Buddhist monk. She told us its origins are from somewhere in Japan around 1974.

Per Sakura’s request, we arrived at her apartment around 9 a.m. – at this point she’s been up for about four hours, rolling, boiling, baking, listening to some music, a podcast or a long phone call, catching up with a friend somewhere in the world. And, of course enjoying the sunrise – one of the quintessential perks of being a baker. We bring coffee up to the apartment and sit on her bedroom floor, arranged to be a dinning room as boxes tucked away in corners still lay to be unpacked. The timer rings and Sakura dashes to the kitchen, returning with a dozen bagels, sliced with some salted butter melting between halves. Spooning cream cheese from a teacup onto our picks, laying cucumbers down, spreading honey and thinly sliced cheese, all the while trying our best to ask questions between the breaths of inhaling our warm fluffy salvation.

Before Sakura’s senior year at Parsons, her family’s home burned down in the Woolsey Fires in Malibu. Sakura had a few items that stayed in New York during her summer break, but besides those, she and her family lost everything, their home left to ashes. This disaster was the precursor for two projects. The first being a ceramic endeavor – using the soil and ash from the fire, Sakura filtered out the clay to create ceramic bowls, utensils, and candelabras [left]. The second – ultimately her undergraduate thesis – being a book titled: Having A Meal With You – exploring the questions that remained after the fire, and still remain: When you lose home, a relationship, a place – where does it go? Sakura would prepare a meal with one person whom she had shared her life with – her mother, her sister, her partner. Sometimes space and time did not permit them to be in the same room, so both Sakura and the partner would prepare the same meal separately and enjoy it together via Facetime – all of this pre-pandemic – it was through the making and consuming of the meal that the two sides could speak openly about their relationships, asking questions, reminiscing and truly sitting in the sense of what it was they shared. Another timer goes off and Sakura shoots up from her seat to take more bagels – these for delivery, not us – out of the oven.

More From The Food Issue