Story by Zachary Armand, Photos by Zachary Armand and Julianna Horiuchi
It takes three days from start to finish to make a bagel at One Mighty Mill. Instead of rushing to make as many bagels as possible, head baker Tony Rosenfeld and a team of dedicated employees take the time to craft the best bagel possible. The process is slow but deliberate. They mill wheat into flour, use local ingredients, and ferment the dough twice. This careful attention to detail ensures that every bagel that rolls out of the oven is packed with as much nutritional goodness as possible.
One Mighty Mill opened in September 2018, but co-founders Jon Olito and Tony Rosenfeld have been working together for much longer than that. Fifteen years ago, the two founded a B.Good, a local farm-to-table restaurant chain. There, they had a mission to show customers where their food came from. However, after working at this company for so long, they both decided it was time to move on.
“I decided I wanted to do something different. And I had basically a year to figure things out” said Olito. “I didn’t know anything about wheat and flour, and I had been on farms and we had done so much work on this farm-to-table concept.”
Somehow, after doing so much work to connect consumers with farmers, Olito found that wheat production was still a mystery to him. He was determined to learn more, so he decided to go to a baking conference in Maine. Olito added that he “didn’t know anything about where [he] was going.”
One of the panels at this conference featured Matt and Sara Williams, a father and daughter who ran a farm in the small town of Linneus, Maine. The two spoke about their relationship with a baker.
“It spoke to me in a unique kind of way,” Olito explained, “I had never heard of a farmer working with a baker.”
After the panel was over, he went up to Matt and Sara and asked if he could visit their farm. This was when Olito realized what his next business would be.
Pairing up again, Olito and Rosenfeld started crafting ideas. They envisioned a bakery, where farmers supplied local grain directly to a baker and customers knew exactly where their food was coming from.
First, they partnered with Matt and Sara of Aurora Mills & Farm. Next, they commissioned a builder from Vermont to hand-craft a grindstone to mill flour. Then, they found a location on Exchange Street in Lynn, Massachusetts, and One Mighty Mill opened its doors.
Stepping inside One Mighty Mill’s store, almost every stage of their production process is visible. Next to their menu there’s a photo of Matt and Sara Williams smiling in a field of wheat. There are large windows that look out onto the floor of the bakery. Here, anyone can observe the process of making bagels.
Every morning organic wheat from Linneus, Maine is crushed and ground between the two 1,200 pound stone wheels at One Mighty Mill. Unlike most commercial flour, the bran, germ, and endosperm are all included – many mills these days just include the endosperm. Olito said that they include the three parts of the wheatberry because the bran and germ “have all the living vitamins and minerals.”
After milling, the three day baking process begins.
“Day one, we make what’s called a preferment – this is just flour, water and a little bit of yeast,” said Rosenfeld “it’s not quite a sourdough starter – but in letting it sit, you get some of the same characteristics.”
The next day, Rosenfeld will mix a little more flour and flavorings into the dough and then let it ferment again for 24 hours. Then, on day three, they’ll shape the bagels and bake them.
“We bake for the café, and we also bake for the market,” Rosenfeld said.
Not content with simply making bagels, Olito and Rosenfeld wanted their bakery to have a positive impact on the community. Before opening, One Mighty Mill secured a contract with Boston Public Schools.
“From the beginning, we wanted to feed kids healthy food,” Olito said. “Every day we feed 10 schools in Boston that are [the] closest to food deserts.”
Olito notes that this number will grow to 30 schools by the end of the year. The cafe also provides a 15 percent discount to Lynn residents.
“We wanted to make sure that as a company we stood for making healthy food accessible to everyone,” Olito stated.
Running a bakery that mills its own flour is not an easy task. “The good days are easy, the bad days, it’s exhausting,” explained Rosenfeld. However, according to Rosenfeld and Olito, the payoff of all this hard work is exceptional.
To Olito and Rosenfeld, One Mighty Mill is an opportunity to do something important: to take the first steps in restoring food production to the local level, and to end the disconnected nature of wheat production. Printed on the wall of the bakery is the mission statement, guiding every step of the process:
“One Mighty Mill stands for a small but mighty resistance to homogenization and industrialization of what we eat. And it stands for food that matters – to the communities it comes from, the people who make it, and in the end, everyone who tastes it.”