What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of curry ice cream?
Well, when I first heard of the unorthodox combination I immediately transformed into Rudyard Kipling and thought “0h, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
But luckily for Delana Gray-Lewis, she did not think the way I did because this strange mix has become a winning combination for her.
Gray-Lewis is the owner of Ice Cream Chef Limited, and the curry ice cream is one of her top four flavours.
The three other flavours that have proven to be favourites among her customers are Cocosop ( a mixture of coconut and soursop), pumpkin coconut, and charcoal.
Gray-Lewis also has other eye-opening flavours such as roasted garlic, plantain, and moringa mint.
“I have a customer who calls me a mad scientist,” Gray-Lewis told Guardian Media with a chuckle.
But Gray-Lewis’ ice cream flavours have not always been this adventurous.
Her journey with ice cream began some six years ago after a trip to a beach in Moruga.
“We were heading to the beach in Moruga and on the way there I said I was feeling for ice cream and there is a lady in Moruga who sells ice cream from her home so we passed the place and said when we are coming back we will buy the ice cream from that lady and when we did come back on the way back home we joined the line of waiting cars,” Gray-Lewis said.
“When it was our turn the woman told me that all the ice cream finished so I made a joke and said ‘like ice cream has money in it, so I said I feel I will go and make ice cream and sell from home’ and that is how it started,” she said.
Gray-Lewis said she started with the help of her mother.
“I started safely and I did like coconut ice cream because as a child growing up my mother used to make custard ice cream and coconut ice cream for us all the time,” Gray-Lewis said.
“As a matter of fact the first batch of ice cream I didn’t even make it I asked my mom to come over and show me what to do to make ice cream because I did not know anything about making ice cream and she did,” she said.
Gray-Lewis said that first weekend she let friends and family know she was making ice cream for sale and at the end of the day it was all was sold out.
This became a catalyst for her.
“I decided I am going to buy some recipe books and tried doing other flavours beside coconut. I started searching online for some recipes and I also started searching for some new books and I bought them and that is how I started trying some of the fancy flavours,” Gray-Lewis said.
“And even in terms of fancy the first set of flavours were kind of safe like peaches and cream, I tried lime as well in the beginning too, barbadine, the ones that were not so difficult to create,” she said.
The wheels kept churning.
“Over time I kept trying more and more stuff and I kept looking for more recipes and I came across a recipe for curry ice cream so I said I needed to try it but of course tweak it to suit me and I did try it,” Gray-Lewis said.
This was about three years ago.
“Curry does not make you sick, when you make curry crab it is milk and curry so that is how I started doing the curry ice cream,” she said.
Gray-Lewis lauded God as her inspiration for her flavours.
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“I think God inspires me because sometimes I just think about something like for example one day it just hit me maybe mammy apple will taste good blended with milk because when you look at the texture of the fruit and I made a punch out it and when I tasted it I said definitely I have to make this into an ice cream,” she said.
Like most other businesses, Gray-Lewis said Ice Cream Chef was also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place to stop its spread.
“COVID-19 affected me both positively and negatively,” she said.
“Where I was renting my retail space the landlord expected to me to pay full rent for the period that the government shut down all food places and I decided that I am not doing that and I closed down the retail space,” Gray-Lewis said.
But as one door closed another opened.
“It impacted me positively from the perspective where as a result of me having to close down I had to come up with a new way to do business so from that we started doing the delivery service and since I have done that I have seen sales increasing by making the ice cream mobile to the customers and selling to areas in Trinidad where I was not before,” Gray-Lewis said
“So before it was strictly south and Princes Town side but now every Friday I go to central and we also have Esther James who does the distribution for me along the east-west corridor so my customer base has actually increased,” Gray-Lewis said.
Gray-Lewis said James has helped her tremendously.
So what strange new flavour can customers expect soon?
Well after a challenge from a male customer that they were not making enough flavours suited specifically for men, Gray-Lewis said she will be unveiling a new flavour next week; bois bande ice cream.
Bois bande is the bark of the tree richeria grandis and has a reputation in the Caribbean as an aphrodisiac.
Gray-Lewis said her ultimate goal is to start exporting internationally.
While Gray-Lewis said she is known for her unusual combinations she had advice for young people which she said she hopes will help them to excel in life.
“You have to marry passion with skill. And do not give up on your God-given dream,” she said.