with Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Every foodie-find starts as a foodie’s dream. For Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the dream started in 1996 when she quit everything else - including school. "I was studying art history at Ohio State University and working at La Chatelaine, a French bakery," explains Jeni. "I loved the scent, the art, the dedication to making fine pastries and decided to apply that same set of skills and qualities to ice cream. It took."
Opening shop in Columbus’ North Market, an indoor pubic market featuring everything from fresh vegetables and fish to wine and now ice cream, Jeni started her days shopping the market for ingredients that inspired her — flats of strawberries, wine, spices - to determine the day’s flavors. Two of her first and all-time popular flavors are Salty Caramel and Queen City Cayenne (a wonderful spicy chocolate).
"It was the best initiation into the food business ever," recalls Jeni. "I learned so much about sourcing, merchandising, selling, advertising, packaging - everything. I got tons of feedback from customers. I was in the trenches every day for a minimum of 12-16 hours and it was the best thing I ever did."
So what sets Jeni’s ice cream apart?
Her small-batch approach and quality ingredients. "I still make ice cream every day," says Jeni. "We have 80-100 people working in our kitchens and it takes every one of them to make the best ice cream ever. Most of our competitors make ice cream mechanically — a few people pressing buttons. We touch every batch, pack every pint by hand."
And then there are the quality ingredients.
"Say we get in fresh, local strawberries," begins Jeni, "it’s all hands on deck. We wash them, hull them, cut and use them. We make our own marshmallows and pralines. We use grass-pastured cream. Labor intensity is equal to flavor intensity and that’s ok by me."
Many of Jeni’s ingredients come from her original North Market sources and the rest are fair trade and/or local. "We are about building relationships and community from our ingredients to our consumers," says Jeni. "Ice cream is good for that."
Today, Jeni has ice cream parlors — real, old-fashioned, fun ice cream parlors — in Columbus, Cleveland, Nashville and most recently, Atlanta and Chicago. She is the author of the The New York Times best-selling Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which recently earned Jeni a coveted James Beard Award.
"My goal is to make the perfect ice cream," states Jeni with unadulterated passion. "I think about it every day. I actually dream about it."
Jeni’s Year-Round Flavors
- Salty Caramel
- Wildberry Lavender
- Brambleberry Crisp
- Brown Butter Almond Brittle
- The Buckeye State
- Dark Chocolate
- Pistachio & Honey
- Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet
- Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean
- Queen City Cayenne
- Lemon & Blueberries Frozen Yogurt
- Lemon Frozen Yogurt