There are a few flavours that have, over the years, become synonymous with ice cream. While chocolate, coconut, and vanilla are still solid classic contenders on a hot island day, ice cream flavours have come a long way.
Delana Gray-Lewis, owner of a small ice-cream business she calls Ice Cream Chef, is taking local flavours to new delights.
Gray-Lewis spoke to Newsday about the inspiration behind her crazy ice cream flavours, including her surprise hit – a curry-flavour ice cream – and what outrageous flavours she plans to tackle next.
Gray-Lewis said the curry-flavoured ice cream was popularised by internet trolls early last year who did not think the two concepts made a good fit.
“We did a post on Facebook and the colour of the curry made the ice cream look like faeces,” she recalled with a laugh.
“When people saw it, they shared the photo, and it went viral.”
She said internet trolls did what they do best and shared the photo, with hurtful captions like, “curry and milk don’t mix,” or “diarrhoea ice cream.”
She said it took some time, but she was eventually able to educate her following on the flavour.
“Curry is just a spice just like anything else and once you properly pasteurise your ice cream, passing it through a heating process, you are removing the bacteria that will make you sick from the ice cream mix."
After a while, people decided to give the ice cream a try and eventually fell in love with the flavour, she said.
“I have a view that, more or less, anything can be converted into ice cream,” she joked.
When she started out, she did not want to do the flavours that everyone else was doing.
“I wanted to try stuff that no one else was trying, so I started looking around for different things that I could get my hands on to make unusual flavours and curry came to mind as one of them. In the same way you use cinnamon or turmeric in ice cream, I figured you could do the same with curry.”
She was only able to find one curry ice cream recipe to experiment with, but she would eventually tweak the recipe to her liking.
“You don’t want the curry to overpower everything else.”
Gray-Lewis didn’t stop there. Since beginning her business in 2011, she has tried over 70 recipes, all of which she offers, but not at the same time.
Her more conservative, but sweet, flavours include local exotic fruits such as guava, five fingers, and soursop.
Her more outlandish flavours include roasted garlic, barfi, tender coconut, black cake, sorrel cheesecake and ponche de crème.
Learn as you go
Gray-Lewis said she does not have any formal training but taught herself how to make ice cream with the help of her mother.
Inspiration struck on a random trip to the beach with her family, when they passed an ice-cream vendor selling from outside of her home on a Sunday afternoon.
“We were going to stop on the way, but we decided to come back after we were done.” The family stopped on the way back, but the ice cream was already sold out.
Heartbroken, but impressed with the number of customers the vendor had, she jokingly said to her family, “Hmmm, I need to start making ice cream and sell.”
She said although she meant it as a joke at the time, she was serious about trying it, but she had a full-time job too.
Gray-Lewis said one day, while at work, she heard a clear voice tell her to leave work and purchase an ice-cream maker. “I ignored it two times, but the third time I got up right away and got it. That was the start.”
She said she didn’t know a thing about making ice cream but had already reached out to family and friends to let them know she would be selling that weekend.
“I called my mother that first week to help me and she did, and we sold all, so I thought to myself, this really had some potential.”
Gray-Lewis worked on weekends with her mother for the first few weeks on the ice cream before she decided to invest in some ice cream science books and recipe books.
“I started selling to friends and family from my home.”
She said in 2015, the organisation she was with closed the department she worked for, so she decided to focus on her business full-time, however, the venture was not enough to cover all her bills.
“I took a part-time job in 2016 and did the ice cream part time and I still do that. I don’t have a store, but I have a space that I manufacture from.”
She said after the curry ice cream went viral, she was making around 100 litres per week, but since the pandemic, business has slowed a bit.
“Now that restrictions are scaling back, I think business will pick up for most people for the Christmas season.”
She said she would like to own a storefront some day and try her hand at niche markets like vegan ice cream.
“I’ve made vegan ice cream from almond milk. I know the market is there and not tapped into, but part of that is because vegan ice cream is not cheap," she joked.
She said because she does not have a storefront, she cannot sell in smaller quantities and only sells by the litre for now but hopes she can have a retail space in the future.
Gray-Lewis, who is from New Grant, delivers to the south and central areas, but not as far as Point Fortin. She also has someone who assists in deliveries along the East-West corridor, from Sangre Grande to Diego Martin.
“Some people can’t come to the store, so you have to take the sweetness to them.”