If you’re holding a rainbow bagel that was not purchased in Brooklyn, drop it. Drop it now. Because that means it was not crafted by Scot Rossillo, the man behind the viral #RainbowBagel. “I’m world famous!” Rossillo joked on an afternoon at The Bagel Store. He had just begun making the first-ever Lemon Lime Black Cherry bagel.
Before Inked was allowed to ask any questions, he shouted from his kitchen in the Williamsburg basement, “You can not take any pictures over here!” He pointed to a corner where vibrant dough was being laid. “You can not take any pictures of this!” He pointed to a shelf holding dozens of colorful liquids, whether they were simple food coloring or magical flavor-enhancing potions we were not at liberty to know.
Only one other person knows the sacred recipe—26-year-old Escobar, Rossillo’s loyal employee. Even he had to wait eight years before learning the tricks of the trade.
Rossillo works in a mad scientist-type manner, his glasses slightly fogged with flour while taste-testing Reese’s Peanut Butter cream cheese and shouting, “more chocolate!” And pacing between sink and mixer while holding an industrial bowl filled with neon green dough. Imagine Willy Wonka minus the mushroom cut and plus the tattoos.
“I was just a stupid kid,” Rossillo says looking at his ink. He got his first tattoo at 15 by Huggy Bear Ferris, “It was a freaking flower! I’m not showing you!” Rossillo insists he’ll never get tattooed again, “Do I wish I did the same thing? No.” He explains, “Artistry is better now. Designs are better now.” At the idea of a cover up he yells, “I don’t need anymore! I’m good!”
With the lime batter complete, a new fruity scent took over, “Black cherry, yo!” His inspiration never begins with flavor, “It’s always about the coloring and the artwork,” but taste obviously plays an important role. “We get to eat [the art]. It’s a much deeper connection on a molecular level.”
This connection is the reason for the Rainbow Bagel’s success. “You ever see my Instagram?” The Instagram boasting almost 80 thousand followers? Duh. “All the people posting with their smiles like they’re on some sort of lithium?” He asks. “They are truly that happy.” Social media (controlled only by Rossillo) is also to blame for the constant line stretching out the door and around the corner.
A group of six 20-somethings from North Carolina waited in line for over an hour—on a Thursday afternoon—for pink and blue bagels with funfetti cream cheese. “I saw this on Facebook a month ago and I was like, we have to plan something,” says one of the guys. (We caught up with them after they ate, “North Carolina’s [bagels] suck!” a girl shouted.)
Mr. Rossillo has a clever way of marketing. The Crystal Meth bagel, for example, a blueberry bagel coated with sugar, is inspired by Breaking Bad. “It’s identifiable for [millennials],” he says. “Plus it tastes so good it should be illegal,” Inked can confirm that is a cold hard fact. A few other concoctions include the Jameson-infused St. Paddy’s Day bagel, the Unicorn bagel, and the Minions’ Ba Ba Banana bagel. He’s also credited for the Cragel (croissant bagel) and the Bacon, Egg and Cheese bagel.
Even with business on a global level, (he often teams with Grabr to send bagels abroad), Rossillo swears he is not in it for the money. “We work seven days a week,” he says while dumping lemon dough onto the counter. He is in it for the art. “Go to anyone else’s shop and their colors will not pop because they didn’t put in two decades.”
In that time he sacrificed two marriages and missed much of his six children’s school plays and soccer games. “This is everything,” he says. “People do the same shit day in day out—I’d rather die.” Rossillo says he’ll create until he takes his last breath, leaving a legacy that the world will live on for hundreds of years. “There is no reward for average.”
He’s not the only one at the shop who yearns for creativity, the “Bagel MC,” Ross, puts on a musical act for the patient customers daily. Ross, the former cook, says, “Scot pulled me aside and said, ‘You talk so much, I could use you in the front.’”
Soon after the switch he realized the questions from customers could be answered with flare: it was show time. Taking orders now includes cracking jokes, singing, and dancing. “[Customers] don’t even realize three hours have passed.” Plus, Ross and the team work 12 hour days, they want to have fun too. “I want to explode the Rainbow Bagel to the world,” Ross says. “Scot is a creative genius.”
A serious side of Rossillo surfaces as he knots the last of the Lemon Lime Black Cherry batch and says, “I wouldn’t be in business without [the team].” And sends us on our way warning not to make a fool of him, “I’m just the guy who makes the bagels.”