Chris Leung, recently hired as pastry chef at sushi restaurant Kata Robata, has launched Cloud10 Creamery, his own range of handmade, premium ice cream. Cloud10 focuses on small batch ice creams that make use of fresh ingredients without extracts or additives. The flavors themselves are a mix of traditional, such as vanilla bean, with more adventurous options such as peanut butter and hay or malt and tomato. So far, Leung has signed on Vietnamese food truck Phamily Bites, craft beer bar Hay Merchant and sister restaurant Underbelly as his clients. Leung spoke to Eater about how he became an ice cream man and why he thinks he'll be successful.
Leung says he started Cloud10 because "I wanted something that was kind of my own. We looked into doing retail, but the budget to get that going was enormous." Rather than trying to front the costs to open an ice cream shop, Leung went with a different approach - marketing to restaurants and food trucks that want a dessert option without the trouble or expense of making something themselves.
He explains the appeal for the restaurants: "Working in a kitchen in a restaurant helps me to produce what the restaurant wants. If a restaurant wants a certain type of ice cream or they have a product they don't know what to do with, I can [take the ingredients] and get it back to them in a couple of days." For example, when Leung began working with Underbelly, they provided him with "tons of blueberries and blackberries" that became the flavor "black & blue" that combines them. It also means he can create custom flavors that pair well with their other dessert offerings.
"I like working and collaborating with the restaurant or the business to come up with something unique. I talked to [Greenway Coffee's] David Buehrer the other day. I wanted to make a coffee ice cream with his beans, but when you make coffee ice cream...it always tastes the same with Folger's or good beans. We want to make an ice cream that actually tastes like the beans."
For those looking to purchase some of Leung's ice cream to consume at home, "Our facebook fan page lists 10 favorites that are always available and 10 seasonals that change every three months. That's geared towards people that just want a pint. They can email me."
Although the prices, $11/pint, $16/quart , $25/half gal and $45/gal, are not cheap, Leung explains why someone might want to indulge in his offerings instead of a grocery store favorite like Blue Bell, "I love Blue Bell ... but half of it is ice cream and half of it is air. [Mine] is a good product. Hay Merchant gave me a bunch of blueberries, so they got blended into the ice cream base." That goes for all of the other offerings, as well. Even the vanilla bean uses pods instead of extracts.
For Leung, the approach just makes sense. "I just want to do it right. The most important thing is the product and putting my own spin on it. That way it's a unique product that nobody else has."
Leung concludes with his very own celebrity endorsement: "I brought 15 flavors for [Kata Robata sushi chef] Hori to sample. The next day they were all gone." That's pretty much all anyone needs to know.
· Cloud10 Creamery [Facebook]
· All Chris Leung stores on Eater Houston [-EHOU-]
Chris Leung at Bootsie's during a dessert tasting, August 2011. [Matt Chow, roflhouse.com]