My loom is empty at this minute, for NOT FOR LONG. I was asked to participate in a wonderful exhibit coming up at the Textile Center of Minnesota from March 19-May 21, “Artists in the Kitchen: 50 works of art by women artists inspired by 50 women chefs & restaurateurs.” This exhibit is being held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) national conference, Women Speak: Curating the Future of Food from April 21-23.
When Tracy Krumm and Carolyn Halliday extended this invitation, it took about two minutes to decide to participate. Food as a subject? I could do that. And what food would I get? I eagerly waited to hear.
It was so fun to meet Ashlee, and I was dazzled by her mix of talent, enthusiasm, dedication and business acumen. And the ice cream she brought was incredible. She told me the story of working for a single origin bean-to-bar chocolate company, Rogue Chocolatier, and how she was inspired by the owner’s dedication. He would do everything to make his chocolate the best and his company successful, even if it meant sleeping-on-the-couch, 24/7 attention to his production. During her time with Rogue, Ashlee came to wonder what her food passion was: “What’s my chocolate?” Her epiphany? Ice cream. She remembered all of her childhood experiences eating ice cream with her family, and she set out to make the best product she knew to bring people together in a shared joyous experience.
In the last six years, she has been building her business, from making ice cream in her apartment and selling to family and friends, to employing three people to make ice cream year round. Along the way, she completed a business degree at Metro State. When she started she used her student loan money to buy the smallest commercial ice cream machine. Now her newest, biggest machine accommodates 45 pints at one time.
She is committed to natural products only in her ice cream (including organic local milk), which means that some flavors may not be available year-round. She aims for approachable flavors that are layered. As an explanation she said, “I want clean, pure flavors, so that the first bite is not the same as the last.” From my personal taste testing—hey, that works! What struck me during our conversation is that while there is definitely an art to combining delicious flavors, the key to great ice cream is some pretty complicated food science. Ashlee has the combination of knowledge and experience to pull it off.