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10 Questions | Ariella Wolkowicz, Toasted

10 Questions: Toasted bagels bring New York style to Napa

From the Get to know Napa County's local entrepreneurs and businesspersons in 10 Questions series

Ariella Wolkowicz loves bagels. So much so that when she moved to Napa from Plattsburgh, New York in 2013, her mother would ship her bagels from a specialty bagel shop in Montreal called St. Viateur.

After working for a few years in the restaurant and fine dining business, “I decided to venture out on my own, creating the bagels I loved growing up with in New York for Napa, since I couldn’t find them here,” she said.

Toasted bagels are a Montreal/New York hybrid, combining the density and chew of Montreal with the slightly fluffier New York interior, she said.

“Ours are also boiled in water sweetened with honey for a slight sweetness and a glossy shine.”

1. What was your childhood ambition?

First to be a fairy queen and then to be a vet.

2. What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: Public relations.

Not try: Astronaut.

3. What was your first job?

First job was at Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, NY.

4. What’s the worst job you ever had?

Right before I quit restaurants, I worked at a restaurant in downtown Napa that had the makings of a Gordon Ramsay show: the chef would constantly yell at cooks when he was mad…wages were low and there were no benefits.

It was my tipping point: I wanted to create a business where employees felt valued, respected, and happy to be there. I wanted to pay employees a living wage and teach people to love what we do. I knew that could never come out of a place of fear.

A friend of mine once said, “If you cook with fear, people can taste it. If you cook with love, people can taste it. Only one of them makes you smile while you’re eating.”

I wanted a business where people smiled when they ate my products.

5. What is the biggest challenge the food industry has faced?

Outside of skinny profit margins, the biggest challenge has been the ability to grow and expand production without much capital.

6. What’s on your to-do list?

  • Open a storefront.
  • Take a day off.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep.

7. Who do you most admire in the business world?

Angela Garbacz (of Goldenrod Pastries in Nebraska) for creating the most adorable bakery and using her influence to raise money and awareness for women in kitchens and leadership roles.

St. Viateur Bagel for creating authentic, tasty bagels and staying true to their vision since 1957.

8. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

Open a storefront, own a home in Napa, and figure out how to do my own taxes.

9. If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be?

Low wages, sexual assault (and) the guilt about taking time off.

10. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I grew up downhill skiing at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid. I also fell off a mountain when I was 8 years old with minor injuries.

You can find Toasted bagels at Napa Farmers Market Tuesday and Saturday, St. Helena Farmers Market on Fridays, Marin Farmers Market Sunday, Model Bakery (all locations), Oakville Grocery, Sunshine Foods, Silverado Market Place, Ottimo/Bottega, Harvest Inn, Soda Canyon Store, and Hudson Greens & Goods.

Check out highlights from graduations held at Napa Valley College and Justin-Siena, New Technology, American Canyon, St. Helena, Calistoga, Napa and Vintage high schools.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

Related to this story

After the Covid-19 lockdown began in March 2020, the Napa Farmers Market remained open as an essential food business and serving as a community hub for people to connect with their neighbors and the people who make their food.

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