It’s easy to think that 21st century ice cream is all about all on trend flavors. Throw the word “crack” after something salty sweet and you’re in business. Or shred beets and farmstead cheese into your ice cream base and you’ve got “artisan ice cream” game. We’ve been at this so long we practically wrote those rules.
But what I don’t think most people realize—because it’s mostly behind the scenes—is how devoted to 21st ice cream we are. And the true fun in ice cream (for a real ice cream nerd) is in body and texture and safety; three infinitely important aspects of what and how we do what we do. And if you want to make ice cream the way we do at Jeni’s, then you’ve got to have the right research and quality team in place.
Enter Mary Kamm. Mary heads up our research, quality, and safety team. Quality and safety are on the same line for us; we will never sacrifice one for the other. It’s infinitely easier to take shortcuts than to bring fields of produce into your ice cream—I cannot emphasize this enough. In so many ways we are creating our own standards of safety based on our standards of quality. Mary heads up these efforts. And she’s just the woman for the job.
Mary has a food science degree from UC Davis. She’s worked with all manners of food companies—from chocolate at Nestle to spices at McCormick, frozen product at Dean Foods to quality and product development at Ben & Jerry’s. She came to us by way of Byrne Dairy in New York where she was tasked with building a yogurt plant from scratch; so she’s a brilliant mind when it comes to talking cultures in food. She has decades—decades—of experience.
She understands and truly appreciates the intersection of science and real food. While at Ben & Jerry’s in the ’90s, Mary led an R&D team built up of pastry chefs, not scientists, who knew the ins and outs of flavor and food. She says she realized it wasn’t enough that a product was safe or that it technically works, but it has to taste really good, too. The chefs would make something that tasted great; Mary would figure out how to scale up the recipes safely and efficiently. How to make sure the product wasn’t too icy. Her job, she quips, was to be the science nerd. (And we love nerds of all varieties around here.)
She has a similar role here, working alongside myself and our R&D chef to make sure our ice cream isn’t just exceptional in flavor, texture, body, and finish, but is also made with utmost safety in mind from the beginning of our R&D process, saving us time and resources later. Under her leadership we will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in body and texture when you take milk apart and put it back together (and always without the use of stabilizers and emulsifiers!).
Mary’s already expanded our knowledge in ways we never expected. And I know there are other incredible new ideas in ice cream we haven’t even imagined yet. But we will. I’ve spent years discovering what’s possible in cream. With Mary on our team, we’re unstoppable.
As a side note: Mary is also wildly fascinating. She ran an inn in Vermont for four years. She owns a 16-year-old Morgan horse named Roscoe, who she occasionally competes with in dressage events (he’s semi-retired). She also dabbled in Western riding (mostly for the outfits). She loves to cook (Portuguese on her mother’s side, she says everyone in her family is obsessed with fava beans), and reads an uncanny amount of science fiction (Helen Harper is her current obsession).