This week, I was in Columbus, Ohio for work, and had the opportunity to visit with the fine folks at Jeni’s Ice Creams, and see what makes them the best artisan ice cream maker in the country. I had the opportunity to Coffee Ambush them not only at their kitchens where their delicious ice creams are made, but also at their bakery, as well, where they make things like their macaroons. I had lunch with founder Jeni Britton Bauer, as well as Erin Riebel, where we talked passionately about foods, coffee, chocolate and ice cream. We talked about what makes niche businesses like ours successful, and how what we focus on truly defines our companies and our cultures. And I spent a good amount of time with many of their team.
(the above is cherries being made for their Cherry Lambic ice cream. Fresh, real cherries, not out of a can.)
And what I found was a diverse group of amazingly passionate and talented individuals, who truly are artisans and craftsman of ice cream and food. While there, I got a tour of their whole facility from Stephanie McBride, events coordinator for Jeni’s. She showed me the care they put into creating their ice creams, from making their own cherry sauces from fresh cherries, to fresh ingredients they use in their sorbets, to the end where all their ice creams and sorbets are packed into pints by hand, something I got to even do myself, after scrubbing and suiting up, hairnets and beard nets in place. I saw a roomful of friendly folks hand-writing each label for each pint, putting stickers on individually. I saw the amount of work it takes to go from one flavor to another in the machines, and just how much cleaning it takes to clean and sanitize between flavors.
I walked around and met Jessica, who was making the Lime Cardamom Frozen Yogurt. I asked her if she enjoyed doing the same thing all, mixing all the ingredients and such, or if it just gold old and became a chore. Her response was prompt and firm, “No, I love what I get to do everyday. I love the ingredients we use, I love the things we create, I love our people.” I ran into Matt Beckler, a production specialist with them at a local coffee shop later in the day, and he shared the same passion for the company, it’s people, and it’s products. (Matt is also a very talented singer/songwriter, and you should check out his music at his website http://www.mattbecklermusic.com/# ) And everyone else I talked to there shared the same sentiment. Jeni’s Ice Creams is made up of a great team of very professional and passionate individuals.
I loved my time with the Jeni’s team, and it led me to think about something. Truly successful people surround themselves with other passionate people. I came away from my time with them reenergized, and motivated to keep sharing my passion for coffee with as many people as possible. I have been honored and blessed to get to work alongside so many incredible people in coffee, so many people passionate about their craft, and yet surrounding myself around passionate people in other crafts has been really cool and refreshing. To hear people speak in the same language as you, as I listened to Jeni talk about her passion for the proper milk she uses in her ice cream, to the bramble berries she uses, even to the meats that she uses for herself in her home. I love to see passionate people, who speak at length about things that they genuinely care about, not because it’s their job, but because they simply delight in it.
Lastly, it reminds me of my October trip to Portland, and as Marcus and I were gathering ingredients for the Iron Tamper Competition I organized there, and we stopped off for lunch at Three Pigs Deli, now closed sadly. Ralph, Chef/Owner, spoke with us about his love for food, and even led us through a full salt tasting, with various sprinkles on fresh heirloom tomatoes. He shared with us for an hour out of his passion for food, fresh vegetables, and great ingredients. And Marcus and I were both inspired. To this day, one of the coolest education experiences I’ve been a part of, and so unexpected. Passion can be found all around you, from all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. Surround yourselves with these passionate people, and be inspired. Then, inspire others.
For further inspiration, find yourself a pint of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams! My favorite is the Dark Chocolate, but I had the Riesling Poached Pear yesterday, it was quite delicious, too.
Thanks also to Ben Blake and Beau Chavez for helping me with the Coffee Ambush. Those guys are great. Coffee Ambush blogpost and video will be up on Monday.