As you read this article pent up in your tiny cubicle, procrastinating for what promises to be a long and tedious afternoon of work, Eric Fredette also finds himself in the office. While you’re meticulously combing over spreadsheets, however, Fredette is playing around with the recipes for Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia and trying to invent the next hit flavor for Ben & Jerry’s.
Yes, Fredette’s job is
probably better than yours. He has worked at the Vermont-based ice cream company for the past 16 years as a “flavor guru” – that’s in research and development for those of you programmed to raise an eyebrow at any job title that actually sounds interesting. We caught up with the man in charge of developing flavor combinations to discuss everything from booze to barbecue ice cream, with just a swirl of Guy Fieri mixed in.
On which personal creation he is most proud of:
People really like Chocolate Therapy.
On how his mind is always on flavors:
We went to a brewery in New York and they put oak chips into the brewing process. This made me wonder what they do with them after, because I think it would make a really tasty smoke on something. That’s just the way my brain is wired.
On the worst place to buy ice cream:
We can tell based on consumer complaints where they bought the ice cream. If it’s severe temperature abuse, it’s from a pharmacy. They are the worst because they’re not grocers. They’re selling Band-Aids and stuff and will keep their freezers warmer because it costs less money.
On promising flavor ideas that just didn’t work out:
Peanut butter and jelly didn’t do as well as I thought it would. I thought peanuts and popcorn was going to be a huge seller as well. Who doesn’t love Cracker Jacks? It turns out that you can’t coat popcorn with enough chocolate to keep moisture from getting in. Cardboard popcorn is the worst. I think we made one run of that.
On ice cream’s shelf-life:
The shelf life for one pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is 18 months.
On if he has played with bacon in ice cream:
The rabbi says no [Ben & Jerry’s is Kosher certified].
On regulations regarding what constitutes a “lite” flavor:
What the government says is that to make a lite version of one of your products, it needs to be 50% less fat than both your original product and a comparable product.
On unconventional ingredients in ice cream:
Rosemary makes the most amazing ice cream because it plays well with both the fat and the sweet. I’ve done a strawberry white chocolate pink peppercorn that was really tasty and also a blackberry sage. The caramel stout that I did was amazing.
On booze and ice cream:
I would do cocktails. Grasshopper would be a good one. We have our White Russian flavor coming out again. I would totally do something with bourbon because it has so many flavors in it – it has notes of vanilla and it’s also malty. Beer is very good in ice cream.
On which discontinued flavor he would bring back:
Without a doubt, I would bring back Rainforest Crunch. It was so good.
On the naming process:
It’s funny, naming has so much to do with it. What was really strawberry cheesecake became “Primary Berry Graham” because it was election year and they wanted something to tie in with the voting. It didn’t sell, but now that it’s “Strawberry Cheesecake,” people can’t get enough of it.
On his root beer float hack:
We did a caramel stout ice cream and floated it on root beer and it was really, really good. Something simpler would be to do coconut ice cream. Then again, I think people either love or hate coconut – there’s nobody in the middle.
On barbecue ice cream:
As a gag for Halloween, we made barbecue chicken ice cream. I wouldn’t recommend it – not that the barbecue part doesn’t work, but as you might imagine, the chicken doesn’t. But barbecue really does work – we made a deep fried peanut butter ice cream with bourbon fudge and a barbecue caramel sauce that was amazing. Tom Colicchio ate two of them!
On Guy Fieri:
He’s got nothing on me! Oh, except for the millions probably.
On secrecy at Ben & Jerry’s:
I don’t even tell my wife what I’m working on for next year because she blabs. And she’s okay with that because she knows she blabs.
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