Meet the women of the Austin Ice Cream Festival.
By Courtney Runn, Photos courtesy of Jam Sanitchat
The 12th annual Austin Ice Cream Festival is back for another year of frozen treats and summer fun. Whether you are planning to enjoy the daytime festivities or the boozier After Dark celebration, you won’t want to miss these leading ice-cream ladies.
Jam Sanitchat, Thai Fresh and Gati
Originally from Thailand, Jam Sanitchat made her home in Austin while attending graduate school at the University of Texas. With a desire to bring her Thai roots to Texas, she opened Thai Fresh in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, serving savory dishes and desserts with a home-cooked touch. She first began selling ice cream to her customers after a surplus of mangoes forced her to get creative, and after that initial batch, she’s never stopped making the coconut-milk-based ice cream. She plans to open a stand-alone ice cream shop, Gati, by the end of the year.
Austin Woman: How would you describe Thai ice cream to someone who’s never had it before?
Jam Sanitchat: The consistency [is]a little bit icier, a little bit lighter as well [since]there’s more water content in it. For me, my take is that I want to make really creamy ice cream that tastes just like regular ice cream, but I don’t want to use milk because I’m more used to coconut milk.
AW: What’s the best part of working with ice cream?
JS: You only meet happy people. They’re always excited, their eyes always wide open. It’s such a happy food.
AW: Has the oversaturation of Austin’s restaurant market been a challenge?
JS: In my opinion, the more, the merrier. The world is a big cafeteria. That’s my motto.
AW: What are your most popular flavors?
JS: Golden milk, lavender caramel and Thai coffee.
Gretchen Todd, Over the Moon
Gretchen Todd first experimented with vegan ice cream after she was diagnosed with an allergy to dairy. She started incorporating ice cream into her menu at the juice bar she owned and received rave reviews. Currently, Over the Moon is only in Houston, but Todd has plans to open an Austin location in the fall.
AW: What’s a common misconception about vegan ice cream?
Gretchen Todd: People think it’s going to taste different. It generally will taste almost similar to dairy ice cream. I would say coconut-milk ice cream has more of a coconut taste…but things like cashew and almond milk are going to blend really well…so you’re not going to tell a difference. When we first started, we were just doing cashew milk because cashew milk is really creamy and buttery, and it also takes on the flavor of whatever you’re blending it with.
AW: How have vegan desserts evolved?
GT: Even regular ice-cream shops now are trying to have one or two options of dairy-free or vegan. People are asking for dairy-free because not only are people vegan, there’s just so many people that are lactose-intolerant or we have people that come in that say they have inflammation and their doctor told them to get off of wheat and dairy. We do have a lot of people that come in that are excited because it’s 100 percent vegan. So, the cones and the toppings, nothing has any animal products.
AW: What’s your most popular flavor?
GT: Charcoal lavender. It has become very popular. It’s something we generally always have. That was an accident. Actually, my daughter came up with it. She was messing around while she was working in the ice-cream shop…and people loved it.
Jenny Juliano, Ice Scrapers
Jenny Juliano and her husband opened Ice Scrapers after watching an online video of a Thai street vendor making ice-cream rolls. Without any previous experience in the industry, they jumped in and haven’t looked back. Besides ice-cream rolls, they sell snoballs and ice-cream sandwiches. While currently located in a food truck, they have plans of expanding to a brick-and-mortar location in Austin as well as opening in San Antonio.
AW: What has been one of your favorite interactions with a customer?
Jenny Juliano: We have several pictures on our website of parents bringing their kids for the first time. They’re holding them up and their eyes get so big when they see it freezing and it’s so cute. For me, the biggest part is seeing families come and watching the expressions on the kids’ faces and they’re, like, in awe of it. On a slow day, we’ve brought a couple of kids in and let them attempt their own.
AW: What advice would you give ice-cream entrepreneurs?
JJ: Practice a lot. Don’t be afraid to use different stuff. Some things are going to work out and some things aren’t going to work out. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new stuff.
AW: What’s your most popular flavor?
JJ: It’s a toss-up between s’mores and Monkey Nuts. The Monkey Nuts is vanilla with bananas tucked inside of it. We spread it out, we put Nutella inside the roll and then on top of that, we put whipped topping, nuts and cocoa powder.