University of Brighton Alumni Association

From sculpture to bagels!

Julian Engelsman was awarded a BA(Hons) in Fine Art Sculpture in 1994 and today finds himself running Joyful Foods, selling all-natural, plant-based, gluten-free energy bars under the brand Joyfuel.

So where’s the link?

Julian started selling bagels to help finance his studies at the University of Brighton: “You’d be surprised how my sculpture degree impacted on my bagel business…I was making sculptures out of huge slabs of bread at one time, while selling bagels to staff and students.

“I spent two mornings a week with a red box over my shoulder delivering filled bagels, pickles and treats to shops and offices in central Brighton and Kemptown. It proved very popular. I had my kitchen in a Southover Street student house, approved by Environmental Health.

“Leftover bagels were sold or shared with staff and students at the then sculpture school in Belgrave Street.

“I made sculptures out of bread dough too, quite dark pieces based on feelings from childhood and my Jewish heritage. Many were embedded with plaster teeth (my father was a dentist so denture models were often around the house a lot). I loved the way the teeth kind of exploded out of the dough, half eating it, half being eaten by it.

“Some people thought they just were funny objects. Others saw them like clinkers from the Holocaust. I baked large pieces, even suitcases full of the stuff, and cast some in solid lead, one of which was chosen as a Ben Uri Art Gallery exhibit. For me it was a perfect bitter-sweet metaphor.

“I also spent a good part of my second year making work and installations in a similar vein at a disused building in Vine Street which had in its time been both a brewery and kosher slaughterhouse.

“In the offices, everyone called me ‘Bagelman’ so when I graduated, after a short while in a lonely artist’s garret making a series of books out of bread sacks and some weird installations out of honey, milk and sea sponges, I decided business could be creative too, so I started Bagelman for real.

“I taught myself all I needed to be a bagel baker, drew on some previous experience as a nursing home cook, and set up the first Bagelman unit at the flagship Sussex Innovation Centre on Sussex University campus at Falmer.

“It was quite a leap from the office delivery – a pristine, high-profile 45-seat restaurant and bakery.

“While designing and equipping the new building, I set up a bakery in a former chemistry lab on campus and started four delivery rounds, to Brighton, Hove, Lewes and Burgess Hill. The restaurant proved really popular, not just with the business tenants, but also students and staff across the Falmer campus.

“Three years later, I opened a second shop in Brighton’s North Laine in Bond Street, which soon became our HQ. By the time we had moved out of the Innovation Centre seven years later, we had expanded into a three-storey warehouse behind the Bond Street shop, which became our central bakery, office and outside catering unit.

“The Hove Bagelman opened shortly after, offering a fuller restaurant menu, followed by a third Brighton store in the Lanes at Ship Street.

“Our delivery service, which began at the Innovation Centre, grew rapidly into providing buffets and hundreds of daily filled bagels at seven different student union shops on both the Sussex and University of Brighton campuses and buildings including Mithras House, Grand Parade and Cockcroft.

“At its peak, we baked and sold nearly half a million bagels a year, and employed around 30 staff.

“In 2007, Bagelman was awarded Sussex Best Small Business of the Year and in 2011, after 15 years at the helm, I hung up my oven gloves and sold the business to concentrate on family and a personal writing project (an elaboration of my undergraduate art thesis.)

“In the summer of 2017, after some planning, I started a new company Joyful Foods,

which has introduced a range of all-natural, plant-based, gluten-free pick-me-ups (energy bar squares) under the brand Joyfuel.”

Julian, Founder and Managing Director of Worthing-based Joyfuel, says he has one simple aim: “To make better energy bars, in every sense, so you can eat better, treat better, perform better, feel better.”

He may have moved a long way away from his university studies but individualism, the sculptor’s guiding light, is engrained in his business: “We don’t believe in a ‘one-recipe-fits-all’ (Lawd knows, we tried!), because everyone’s different with different needs, different moods, different desires.

“Plus we change too, from season to season, week to week, day to day, even moment to moment. We’re getting personal.”


Nic Ashton • December 17, 2018

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