Valencian Gold bagels

ICE Alum Feeds First Responders in Las Vegas

Paras Shah pivots from fast-casual paella to bagels to benefit the community amid the COVID-19 crisis.

We're inspired every day by all the ICE alumni who are positively impacting the restaurant industry and our communities amid the coronavirus crisis. Paras Shah (Culinary, ‘07) and his business partner Jeffrey Weiss have reshaped the menu at Valencian Gold, their fast-casual paella operation in Las Vegas, to donate food to essential workers.

A couple of weeks ago, Paras and Jeffrey were watching TV after a day of applying for small business grants and loans. With the sudden restaurant industry shutdown, they were trying to figure out a way to keep Valencian Gold alive, less than a year after opening its doors.

“Jeff and I looked at each other and said, ‘We should do the bagels,’” Paras says. “We’d been working on bagels because we can’t find good bagels out here in Las Vegas, unfortunately.” While they had just been playing around with the idea before the pandemic hit, the partners decided it was time to go all in.

As a Queens native, Paras grew up eating New York-style bagels and wanted to create something as close to authentic as possible. Jeffrey researched techniques and recipes to try, and the two men tested types of water, flour and other ingredients to get the recipe right. They decided they couldn’t use Las Vegas tap water, which Paras says is hard and minerally. “We had to finesse a methodology to make a water that is fairly close to what you find in New York,” he explains.


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Once the duo was confident the bagels were good enough to represent both Valencian Gold and their former home, New York, they started to sell them. Since April 2, bagels, bialys and spreads like scallion cream cheese, Amish butter and strawberry jelly have been available to customers. So far, the venture has been a success. “Expat New Yorkers have been telling us they’re the best bagels in town and they’re the closest thing to New York bagels they’ve found here,” Paras says.

The most important part of the project, however, is the ability for customers to donate a dozen bagels to local first responders. Each Monday, Paras and Jeffrey personally deliver the donated dozens to hospitals, fire stations and police departments. If a customer has a specific destination in mind for their donation, the team can make it happen.

Las Vegans aren’t the only people donating bagels, though. “We’ve actually had people calling from out of state, from New York, Pennsylvania and California, to donate bagels to the emergency workers, first responders and hospital staff in Las Vegas,” Paras says.

He and Jeffrey are grateful to be giving back. “It’s really awesome and humbling that we’re doing what we can right now, with as little as we have, and helping people have a more humane time during this pandemic,” he says.


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In addition to selling and donating bagels, the Valencian Gold guys are also participating in a program called Delivering with Dignity, which provides meals to at-risk members of the community. They’re cooking up comfort foods like beef stew, roasted chicken, paella and baked ziti for their neighbors who need it most.

Though Paras and Jeffrey are doing everything they can to stay in business and help others, they haven’t received the financial support they need from the government. The Payment Protection Program didn’t grant a loan to Valencian Gold, and it’s no secret that this lack of aid will have a lasting impact. “We need that spice of life that local, independent restaurants provide. The dining scene and the industry as we know it will take on a much different look. It’s tough to see,” Paras admits.

Despite the discouraging landscape, Paras remains optimistic. “I’m hopeful yet cautious,” he says. “I think if we all band together and really support each other in the industry, we can all get through this. Not without any scars, maybe a little worse for the wear, but positive and stronger.”

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