Notes from the Ice Cream Machine

The Story Behind Our Guest Chef Collaboration Series

Over the past seven years, we’ve worked on quite a few partnerships with many talented chefs, and each collaboration has been a chance to capture their distinct cooking style into ice cream flavors unlike anything you’ve tried before. This year, we’ve teamed up with five of our favorite west coast culinary friends to transform our June menu into an edible ice cream tour of five very different restaurants.

Here, we’re excited to give a little peek behind the curtain to reveal how these flavors made it from the first brainstorm session to our scoop shops today! The spirit of collaboration infuses every step of the ice cream making process this month. We don’t simply take a dish a restaurant is famous for and interpret it as a frozen dessert—we dig deep to capture a chef’s culinary point of view into every scoop.

You could say each flavor begins long before the six-month Guest Chef Collaboration Series project begins, in the first conversation Tyler has with a chef as they serve side by side at a food festival, or when they’re introduced at the farmers market by a jam maker or cheese expert. We love working with our friends, and this menu is no exception. Each chef on this month’s menu has an organic connection to the Salt & Straw family, which is so lucky to include dozens of talented culinary stars!

Once the chefs are selected, Tyler dives into each cook’s past menus and flavor combinations, investigates their culinary resume, reads countless articles and interviews, watches hours of television appearances, and pages through their cookbooks to get a feel for the individual passion that each chef brings to the kitchen. After he’s done gathering background details, Tyler meets up to explain the goal of the menu: “We want to work​ with​ you on this. We don’t want to simply borrow a recipe, especially not from your dessert menu. We want to capture the ingredients in your pantry, the process of how you create a dish for your restaurant, and what words you use to define your menu and style.” Once they understand we’re ready to get creative with them, it’s off to the races.

Tyler spends hours interviewing and gathering even more culinary inspiration from the chefs themselves, after which the pair puts together a list of ingredients and flavor ideas that serve as the first round of ice cream ideas. From this first brainstorm session, we create 6 to 8 drastically different ice creams with different ingredients for each chef. (Yep, that means that for this year’s Guest Chef Collaboration Series​ ​menu we created about 45 different, unique recipes all to end up serving five fantastic flavors in our scoop shops!)

We ship this first round of flavors to the chefs, and ask them to sample them with their whole team and share their most visceral reactions to each pint. From those 6-8, we narrow down the possibilities to 2 or 3, and continue creating prototypes to dial in on the unique ingredients that will make it into the final ice cream, with our guest chefs giving feedback throughout the whole process. Whether it’s five pints of the same ice cream with slightly different salt levels or another few with different amounts of caramel swirls, we take this honing process very seriously and respect the culinary opinions of our collaborators, no how many back-and-forth ice cream shipments it takes!

The result of this long process is the five flavors on our June menu, and we can’t wait for you to sample each and every one. As you savor your scoop, close your eyes and try to picture the creative process and collaboration in every bite.