Bravo Gelato discovers Carpigiani equipment can accommodate all its frozen dessert needs.
Since his first job at Dairy Queen when he was just 13 years old, Christie Hauck has been passionate about sweets.
“The Dairy Queen shop owner said we could eat all the ice cream we wanted because in two to three weeks, we’d be sick of it,” Hauck recalls. “I took him up on his offer, gained 20 pounds, developed a severe case of acne and realized I was a ‘sugarholic.’”
This might have been an unfortunate tale for many, but it propelled Hauck into a lucrative career. In 1985, he founded The Christie Cookie Co., a cookie and frozen yogurt shop that, at one time, was the largest seller of the frozen confection in Tennessee. “It was my first venture into the food business, and I was thinking, ‘This will last forever,’” he says. “Then, a few years later, premium ice cream moved in; Häagen-Dazs opened stores, then Ben & Jerry’s, and the pendulum shifted as everyone rushed to those shops. That was around 2000.”
Seeing the writing on the wall as frozen yogurt shops began to dwindle as more consumers sought more indulgent premium ice cream desserts, Hauck started to explore other frozen dessert opportunities. This is when he met Malcolm Stogo. The creator of Ice Cream University, who is also known as the Godfather of Ice Cream, Stogo also serves as a consultant for Carpigiani, an Ali
Group company. Stogo’s role in Hauck getting into the gelato business began early on when the pair took a trip to Italy for
the international gelato convention. “I stumbled across Malcolm’s name in 2000, and when I met him, the first thing he said was, ‘We’re going on a gelato tour in Italy in three weeks, and you have to go,’” Hauck recalls. “It was the biggest convention you can imagine, and I felt like I died and went to ice cream heaven. If it weren’t for Malcolm, we wouldn’t be in this business."
Not only was Hauck overwhelmed with the amount of freshly made gelato he saw throughout the convention floor, but he was incredulous when he learned that there are more than 40,000 gelato shops in Italy. “I was seeing stars after that trip,”
Hauck says. “It’s a different world. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I wanted to bring gelato to Nashville.”
So in 2003, Hauck opened the first Bravo Gelato in the Green Hills area of Nashville. Its extensive menu includes more than 20 Italian flavors ranging from Cappuccino, Amaretto and Mascarpone to Donatella, Tiramisu and Biscotto. It now consists of 6 types of vanilla, more than 12 chocolate and coffee gelato varieties, 60 American/Southern flavors,24 fresh fruit gelatos, 14 liquor flavors,5 savory varieties and close to 60 sorbets.
After attending the convention and doing his research, Hauck knew that his equipment pursuit would start and stop with Carpigiani. “The name was everywhere, and everyone at the convention had Carpigiani equipment, so we knew it was the only brand we would use,” he says.
“We had been selling our gelato to restaurants and hotels around Nashville over the past 20 years, but after COVID,Christie Hauck
we got more serious with the wholesale side.”
Stogo was an instrumental partner and assisted Hauck in selecting the Carpigiani equipment that would create the gelato base and unique flavors. “Christie has done well with flavors; he uses Italian flavors for gelato, and many are made from scratch with a customized gelato base,” Stogo says. “He has a dairy make his gelato base from scratch, which few do; he puts his passion for the product out front.”
Hauck ’s first machine was an LB 502 G 20-quart batch freezer, which he describes as “a workhorse that is still running 23 years later.” The original equipment’s technology heats and batch freezes mixtures to produce almost any type of frozen dessert, including ice cream, gelato, sorbet, sherbet, frozen custard and water ice. “Ironically, at the same time, we told the folks at Opryland about our gelato and they offered for us to move into their closed candy/gelato location.” Hauck agreed and also agreed to purchase their Carpigiani 37-quart LB 1002 G RTX, its largest batch freezer model at the time.
That unit is still in operation almost 20 years later. “We haven’t stopped using it,” Hauck says. “Both Carpigiani batch freezers are workhorses that have had no problems; we would never buy another brand.”
Hauck also worked out a deal to open Bravo Gelato kiosks in three major Nashville malls. “We decked out the kiosks with marble countertops, and I bought the finest equipment — Carpigiani gelato equipment, an espresso machine, everything top of the line,” he says. “Those were wonderful days when we had a lot of retail exposure. We were named the Best Nashville Ice Cream in 2003 and the Gelato Shop of the Year from Gelato University in 2016.”
After having as many as 25 Christie Cookie stores (before closing the chain) and about a half dozen Bravo Gelato outlets, Hauck added the Goozy Dessert Bar & Café to his portfolio. “My daughter used to say anything that was ooey-gooey was ‘goozy,’ and that’s where the name came from,” Hauck says. “We had a couple of locations that had a dynamic menu with sweet and savory items, including our gelato.”
When COVID hit, like many in retail, Hauck had to make some hard decisions. He closed the Goozy cafes and all of the Bravo Gelato locations, with the exception of the Opryland Hotel site. “At the hotel, 95% of people are from out of town and familiar with gelato, so we sell a lot of it there,” he says.
Bravo Gelato went back on a growth trajectory following the pandemic, but this time, it was in wholesale rather than retail. “We had been selling our gelato to restaurants and hotels around Nashville over the past 20 years, but after COVID, we got more serious with the wholesale side,” Hauck says. After partnering with foodservice distributors Sysco, U.S. Foods and PFG, Bravo Gelato is now sold in about 100 restaurants in and around Tennessee.
In the last year, a major Nashville restaurant requested ice cream rather than gelato. “We decided to make ice cream and not fill it with air; the restaurant liked it, and we liked it, so we started making it,” Hauck says. “It has more butterfat and less air, and it’s incredible.”
And the best part: Hauck is able to use a hardening cabinet made for Carpigiani by sister company Victory Refrigeration for both the gelato and ice cream. The unit hardens the product faster and provides enhanced storage capabilities, which enhances the product’s quality.
The Carpigiani by Victory Ice Cream Hardening Freezer Model ICH-1D is a two-half door top and bottom freezer unit with fast pulldown temperatures. It is capable of operating at -25 degrees F (-31.67 degrees C) to -15 degrees F (-26.11 degrees C). Adaptive defrost both reduces energy consumption and ensures consistent temperatures.
This large-capacity hardening freezer will hold sixteen 3-gallon tubs or twenty-four 2½-gallon tubs. The space-saving, two-compartment vertical design ensures faster freeze down and better temperature control as warmer products are introduced to the freezer. “We just bought a brand-new Carpigiani LB 1002 G RTX batch freezer and will continue making ice cream the gelato way; it’s beautiful, the best thing,” Hauck says.
“Christie was always making gelato, then decided to make ice cream, and our equipment can do both,” says Carpigiani North America President Penny Klingler. “Product that comes out of a batch freezer is a bit warmer than serving temperature for frozen desserts. When making ice cream or gelato, it is put into a hardening cabinet to freeze it to a point where it’s stable and lasts longer
before it’s put into dipping or display cabinets.”
Stogo agrees that the Carpigiani equipment works as well with ice cream as it does with gelato. “The world thinks of Carpigiani as a gelato — not an ice cream — maker,” he says. “But its batch freezers and cabinets work well with ice cream, and this proves the equipment can do anything.”
Hauck has learned a great deal in his food ventures. “I got into the cookie business a bit later than Mrs. Fields, so I realized the importance of being on the front end of the movement; I wanted to capture the gelato market in Nashville before it hit,” he explains. “That was 20 years ago, and gelato didn’t hit like the frozen yogurt or cookie trends. However, it is still the best frozen treat on the planet.”
“Many gelato makers end up doing it the cheap way and do not follow through with real gelato experience,” Stogo says. “Bravo Gelato has been around a long time and always has used Carpigiani equipment.” He adds that Hauck recently purchased new equipment as the wholesale business expanded. “Bravo Gelato has a really good story, and Christie has been a great promoter of Carpigiani equipment. He has proven that the equipment works for both gelato and ice cream.”
After producing his gelato for more than two decades, Hauck still attends the convention in Italy where it all started. “And we are on our way to grow again, and Carpigiani has been instrumental in our expansion,” Hauck says.
In his own words, Martin is “super-excited” about his next Carpigiani machine: the Fantasticks 4U, installed in November 2015 in his newest concept, Decadent Coffee and Desserts, located in an upscale neighborhood of Overland Park, Kan. With more of a bistro feel, Decadent is aimed at the traditional “mom-and-kid” crowd during the day and an adult clientele at night. “I’m like a little kid at Christmas,” he exclaims. “It’s a machine that you can do so many different things with. I’m going to do everything I possibly can do with it. Initially, we want to do custom ice cream bars. But my mind is thinking, ‘What can I do with this? And I want to do it all.”