Working at Foodbeast has given me many opportunities to see a unique side of the food world. I've been behind the scenes at Knott's Berry Farm, explored Thai Town with a world-renowned chef and even got a firsthand look at the fabled Sriracha Factory. I've always enjoyed the experience, tasted amazing dishes and come out of it having learned something new.
Being lactose-intolerant, however, has left me out of some pretty fun shenanigans with the rest of the Foodbeast team. I can't appreciate a gooey grilled cheese with Marc or some nachos with Isai. Mac and cheese Mondays? Forget about it.
The worst part is, no matter what, the team always seems to forget this little nugget of information about me. You'd think they'd remember by now what with me working here for three years and all. Nope.
So, of course, they sent me to ice cream school.
Welcome to Scoop School
Remember, this is Southern California, the land of unbearable heat and constant traffic. Who wouldn't want to be chilling in the heart of an ice cream training center? Maybe the guy who can't eat any of the ice cream he sees. Though, who knows, maybe they'll have air conditioning.
They had air conditioning.
As I walked in the door, I was greeted by one of the nicest reps I've met in the business. I quickly explained my dairy-free situation to him and he assured me I would still enjoy the experience regardless of my intolerance.
We'll see, Justin.
Pictures of iced creams that were made, or whatever.
I was taken to a room that looked practically identical to a Baskin-Robbins location. It was equipped with bar stools, a vast ice cream selection, everything you would find at a regular store. The only difference was a handful of desks scattered throughout the room. This was the training room for franchisees to get the feel of making their own ice cream dishes, so it simulated a real store to recreate the environment as best they can.
The students would practice making as many sundaes as possible. Whatever they create, they can either eat or throw out. I'm assuming not much gets thrown out. It was like an 8-year-old's dream.
The instructors offered me a shot at making my own Banana Royale Sundae.
Heck, why not?
I put the camera down and set off scooping ice cream, slicing bananas, spouting whipped cream and sprinkling almonds. It was actually really fun.
I've turned down many sundaes in my life, but on this day I turned down enough to shed a tear.
I mean, look at this thing.
It wasn't all torture...
Baskin-Robbins is kind enough to offer a few non- or low-dairy products. Take this Wild 'n Reckless Sherbet and Daiquiri Ice Sorbet.
I had a bite.
It just wasn't the same.
Makin' with the Iced CREAMS.
The main event of the trip out to Burbank was making our own ice cream. The office was given the opportunity to create our own Foodbeast Flavor. My mind had been racing with what crazy, over-the-top ingredients I could throw into the mix. Bacon? YES. Sriracha? Absolutely. Ahi Poke? Maybe we'll circle back to that one.
Unfortunately, Baskin-Robbins had to limit the choice of ingredients we could throw in. Understandable, since I'm sure most stores don't carry bacon and Sriracha. Though maybe think about it, guys?
As I entered the lab, the ingredients were already laid out on the table: Ice cream base, raspberry flavoring, Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate cake chunks and raspberry piping. Out of the choices, those were the most extravagant I could come up with to represent this bubble-gut-inducing publication of ours. We were ready to get started.
I should probably wash my hands, huh?
Overall, the process was incredibly interesting. I felt like I was back in high-school chemistry class. Just awake this time.
Once the base ingredients were mixed together, and mixed thoroughly, they were ready to go into the ice cream maker. While I'm sure there were many, much more qualified personnel to handle such a thing, the ice cream scientist let me load the ice cream mix into the machine.
Ice cream, as some of you know, doesn't instantly pop out once the base mixture is added. It takes some time. While waiting for the ice cream to finish, the crew gave me a tour of the Baskin-Robbins offices. Nothing crazy like a banana split slide or a secret sundae waterfall, but they had some cool collectibles from over the years.
This includes vintage photographs...
...and Korean posters of wacky flavors only found in Asia.
Hey guys, is that the timer?
The ice cream was done.
I have to say this: if it weren't for machines, mixing together ice cream and ingredients by hand would be hell. Luckily, today was arm day. After a rough few minutes, the ice cream was piped and loaded into the cartons.
Can't forget our roots.
The Top-Secret Labs.
Couldn't shoot much of the lab, being confidential and all. Stuck mostly to macro shots. I think there was a life-sized dinosaur made out of rocky road behind me. Just kidding.
I'm not kidding.
Ice Cream Cake Decorating.
Finally, to end the tour, I got a crash course in ice cream cake decorating. It's much more difficult than it looks, folks.
Between the piping and placement of the cookies, the process takes tons of practice and even steadier hands. Looking at my finished cake above, being averse to dairy for much of my life, I clearly had the amateur touch when it came to decorating ice cream cakes.
As you can see, I'm as happy as happy can be taking home my newly decorated ice cream cake to snack on.