Ever since The Campbell Apartment and the Junior’s in Grand Central Terminal closed, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing to do there. Well! Grand Central still has a few surprises up its massive marble sleeves. 
For instance, there’s Agern, a stylish seasonal restaurant, part of the hospitality group started by Danish culinary giant, Claus Meyer. That’s where you’ll find Omar Maagaard, the head barista and roaster, a man who’s been committed to coffee for his entire life. He grew up at a coffee shop owned by his father, the TriBeca Espresso Bar in Denmark, and basically never left. He’s won both second and third place in the Danish Barista Championships, as well as 2nd place in the National Brewers Cup. Currently, Maagaard roasts for Meyer’s undertaking in Red Hook but, in the near future, he will bring his coffee expertise to Brownsvillle, roasting on site for Meyer’s latest endeavor, Brownsville Roasters, attached to his affordable culinary school and restaurant.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
It started when I was 13 I guess. I lived on the other side of Estate Coffee shop, one of the first specialty coffee shops in Copenhagen. At Estate, they had some amazing people working there, it just caught my attention and I started reading and working a bit with coffee. My family and I moved to Germany a year later. In Germany, my father managed a café which I would visit after horrible days in my German school. He made me a sweet version of a latte. After our time there, my dad opened a coffee shop in Copenhagen and an interest for coffee very quickly became a passion. The idea that coffee was something so trivial and simple at an everyday basis, yet complex once you dig in to it was probably what really drew me in.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
Absolutely! Being from Copenhagen, I can for obvious reasons not call myself a local. However, it is clear to me that Brooklyn, for some time now, has been developing and still is, into a venue for a wide spread of career opportunities. Also, with the focus that is put on Brooklyn and products and ideas coming from here, it seems like an ideal stepping stone. There are also the other sides of “utilizing” Brooklyn. What I mean by this, are the people in the more untouched Brooklyn areas who are doing things to develop and/or evolve the community and area. That to me is an awesome way to approach your career in this borough!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Still pulling espresso shots and spreading coffee enthusiasm. I do see myself being more in origin though, in connection with trading of green coffee beans and understanding the farmers more. One of the integral ideas of Brownsville Roasters is to use it as a platform for the farmers and spread knowledge to the public about coffee production. I certainly want to reach a point where I can help create bridges between origin and consumers and advocate the ideas of Direct Trade.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
I did at one point yes. It was in my second year of college in which I really started thinking about the future. The feeling wasn’t really a feeling of wanting to leave this path, rather than having to leave it. Being a barista hasn’t been as much of a career as bartending is for some. These thoughts forced me to consider different paths, however, each and every time I snapped out of that and went straight back behind the espresso machine, over to the tasting table and so on. I started to embrace coffee as my path much more and actually wrote my bachelor project about coffee at Copenhagen Business School.
What’s felt like you’re biggest professional accomplishment?
Honestly, the recent events I have been through are the biggest accomplishments. From the first bottled batches of our awesome Brownsville Roasters Cold Brew using beautiful beans from the Gayo Womens co-op in Sumatra, to the first roasting of our first beans which I myself sourced directly from Guatemala. My amazing beverage manager, Jonas, and I are working hard to produce what we want to be one of the best coffee roasteries in NYC first and then the US. It’s a huge ambition to have, but you need to dream big when you come from Denmark.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?
Find a balance of being patient and being eager. I have been working with coffee for 13 years now and it has only been in the recent 5-6 years I could start reaping the benefits. Be direct when trying to meet people of knowledge and experience in the specialty coffee industry, but stay humble though. We’re trying to put focus on coffee itself, the farmers, the production and the feeling we share with our guests and all coffee people, I feel, share this emotion. Also, we’re all still learning about specialty coffee, it’s still so new. One of the coffee greats once said, “…make an attempt to learn one new thing about coffee every day”
Who are your role models in your industry?
This is where the coffee fan boy would appear. However I do have a couple of people whom I have worked close with for a good amount of years.
Samuli Marila, is a gentleman with whom I have had the great pleasure of calling my unofficial mentor. By far one of the most loving people you’ll ever meet and a person who is so in love with coffee and all it has to give. Samuli was the one who taught me to roast and was also an important part of my own development in understanding, that we as green coffee buyers, baristas and roasters always have to stay humble and honor the farmers work. This mentality has and will always stay with me. Also, this man has the best moves you’ve ever seen on a dance floor!
Peter Dupont, is another role model for me. His mentality in regards to attacking the ideas and concepts of coffee is really quite fascinating and something I aspire to be able to do. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot from him.
 Ever since The Campbell Apartment and the Junior’s in Grand Central Terminal closed, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing to do there. Well! Grand Central still has a few surprises up its massive marble sleeves. 
For instance, there’s Agern, a stylish seasonal restaurant, part of the hospitality group started by Danish culinary giant, Claus Meyer. That’s where you’ll find Omar Maagaard, the head barista and roaster, a man who’s been committed to coffee for his entire life. He grew up at a coffee shop owned by his father, the TriBeca Espresso Bar in Denmark, and basically never left. He’s won both second and third place in the Danish Barista Championships, as well as 2nd place in the National Brewers Cup. Currently, Maagaard roasts for Meyer’s undertaking in Red Hook but, in the near future, he will bring his coffee expertise to Brownsvillle, roasting on site for Meyer’s latest endeavor, an affordable culinary school and restaurant.
Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30?
I would have to go with two different people in two different fields.
My first pick would be Kalle Freese. He is a good friend and colleague in the specialty coffee field. He has launched a company doing instant coffee, but doing it well! I love the idea and the fact that they went with it! It is an awesome way to create an entrance into specialty coffee for the folks who don’t think about coffee in this way. Also the fact that he moved from Finland to the states like I did from Denmark to here to start a coffee company, I thinks that takes some guts
 My second pick would be Mick Jenkins. I owe my best friend a lot for introducing me to this music. I love and have always loved hip hop, specifically old school hip hop and what Mick Jenkins is doing in refining and modernizing the ideas of old school hip hop, I think its dope! Take a look at his Waters EP, just that thin red line through the entire album and maintaining that jazzy feel like you see in the older hip hop tracks, definitely something to tune in to.
Should we all move to LA?
Really simple – No! Although I have never been there and I can only imagine LA as a pretty cool spot, I can never see anything being as great and unique as New York.
To learn about more sub-30 standouts, visit this year’s list of 30 Under 30.
Image by Jane Bruce  

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