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May 30, 2012
Nothing about the way Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams makes ice cream is conventional. Founder Jeni Britton Bauer's staff of ice cream makers includes artists, writers, mathletes, and bakers. She only uses real ingredients--milk and cream from farms using sustainable pasture-grazing methods, for instance--to create ice cream flavors like Wildberry Lavender, Whiskey & Pecans, and Queen City Cayenne, and sorbet flavors such as Plum Sake, Riesling Poached Pear, and Cherry Lambic.
So far, this sounds like the painstaking care and craftsmanship that drives much of the small-batch artisanal food movement. Improbably, though, Jeni's ice cream has spread far beyond nine "scoop shops" in Ohio and two in Tennessee (already a larger scale operation than most artisan products achieve) and is available in stores from Alabama to Idaho to California. The company's online store ships hundreds of thousands of pints every year.
This amazing growth can be credited to the fact that besides studying everything she could about the art and science of ice cream, Jeni also got a solid business education. Here too, her approach was unconventional. She learned from watching food merchants working around her when she opened her first ice cream business, Scream, in Columbus's North Market--and from the French bakery where she'd made croissants between closing Scream and launching Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. From them, she learned about customer service, finances, working with suppliers, managing inventory, and hiring, supervising, and retaining employees.
Through all of this business growth, Jeni has remained first and foremost an ice cream maker. That's what drives her. Of making ice cream, she says, "We explore pure flavor in whatever direction moves us at any moment, every day, all year." To help home cooks "explore pure flavor" in their own kitchens, she has written Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, a cookbook for which she tested every recipe again and again, using only home equipment. To see if Jeni's Character Approved ice cream is available near you or to order it online, visit her website.