Angie’s Epicurean found a fit for producing its novel vegan dessert.

Thanksgiving dinners can be a time of reflection and gratitude, but in the case of Dylan Finger and his wife, Angela Fernandez, Thanksgiving 2017 sparked a business idea.

“We went to a family Thanksgiving, where my wife, who is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, brought a vegan chocolate mousse; she was vegan at the time,” says Finger, Angie’s Epicurean’s Co-Founder. “We were looking for something we could do together.”

Although Finger is a real estate developer by trade, with a history in franchising, he was interested in starting another food venture. “The main reason I came to the U.S. was to bring Sweets From Heaven, which is a
South African candy company we made public, to the United States,” Finger explains. “We used soft-serve machines in the stores
back in the ’90s that were rented.”

It was around 2017 when the couple visited a market in the U.S. that was selling plant-based
soft-serve ice cream made with almond milk. “There was a huge line of customers, but Angie and I tried the ice cream, and it was
just okay,” Finger says. “We came back weeks later and saw the same long line, so I told her we should try to make ice cream. My wife is very talented, and when I see her creating food, she is in her element.”

Finger and Fernandez officially launched Angie’s Epicurean in January 2018. The couple then started testing and reading up on the science of ice cream: binders, fat and emulsifiers. The challenge was replacing dairy with plant- based ingredients without using sugar. “We basically turned our dining room into a lab,” Finger says. “It was a lot of trial and error. We tried different options, like date syrup, and much of it was a disaster. Angie had all these superfoods and ingredients; some were good, some turned the product icy. Then she got better and better.”

As Finger and Fernandez learned more about the industry and suppliers, they continued with R&D until they perfected the product. “She refined the recipe, and we decided to create [not just a business] but a brand,” Finger says.

The result was a plant-based ice cream brand that could accommodate kosher, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and non-GMO diets. Flavors include the traditional vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, then veer off into the signature mango lassi, passion fruit and basil, and cappuccino. Sauce options vary by location and range from the quintessential caramel and strawberry to condensed milk, guava and date syrup. Toppings range from sprinkles to cacao nibs to gummy bears and even rose petals.

The couple found a boutique marketing firm that had worked on another vegan concept to assist with their story, message and artwork. “It was expensive but important,” Finger says. “While testing and creating the brand, we needed to figure out how to bring it to market.”

Finger, having been involved with many brick-and-mortar stores throughout his real estate career, was wary of spending thousands of dollars on a store, hoping it would work. “I didn’t want to take the risk,” he says. It turned out he didn’t have to. Finger leveraged his relationship with a successful fellow real estate developer in Miami who owned a quarter of the city’s Wynwood Arts District. The formerly dangerous, industrial neighborhood had been transformed into some of the priciest real estate in the country. Part of the property included the Mana Wynwood Convention Center, which was formerly an industrial warehouse.

Finger saw opportunity with the venue’s shows and events but wanted to start with a mobile concept. “We needed something we could move around to take advantage of events and capitalize on access,” he says.

The couple felt that traditional food trucks didn’t match the upscale brand
they sought to create. They also considered building out a restaurant in a shipping container, but didn’t like that option, either. “Because our brand was European, we looked at what that continent was doing with mobile ice cream,” Finger says.

Finger and Fernandez came upon vintage trucks from France that were being used for fast food in the United Kingdom. With further research, he discovered a British company that restored old trucks for exactly the use the couple was planning.

“So we planned a trip and drove from London to seven different places, including Wales and the border of Scotland,” Finger recalls. “The last place we found outside London was the one that worked. They had done an incredible job restoring vintage trucks.”

The couple ordered a restored vintage box truck and had it shipped to the U.S. They then found a company in the States that could build it out with electrical connections, windows, lights, air conditioning and equipment. “I did my rounds to check out food truck builders in south Florida and found a place to do it really well,” Finger says. “This company worked on trucks for the military. They were not cheap but were really good. They designed the entire truck, building it out in six months.”

As the truck was being imported and built out, the couple started researching different ice cream equipment. Due to the very compact footprint, this was easier said than done. “It was when I was looking for dipping cabinets that would fit that I met John McCabe of Carpigiani,” Finger says. “He educated us on the company’s many equipment options.”

McCabe, Executive Sales Consultant at Carpigiani North America, an Ali Group company, met with the couple about developing the business. As the truck was being built out, he helped Finger and Fernandez create the display case and provided insight on equipment that would work best for the brand.

Later on, the company would find new production space.

“We found the [production] space from someone I worked with who owned 70 properties in downtown Miami; one was an old food hall from the ’80s that used to be a sandwich shop,” Finger says. “It was a 250-square-foot space with a counter and tiny back of house. We renovated the electrical and plumbing in order to put the Carpigiani Maestro machine there.”

Angie’s Epicurean integrated Carpigiani’s Maestro batch freezer, which provides more than 40 programs for creating gelato, pastry, ice cream and chocolate. The machine’s compact size was ideal for the mobile operation. Available in three sizes, the machine’s high-efficiency technology provides up to 30% water consumption and electricity savings compared with other batch freezers. It also has Hot-Cold-Dynamic Adaptive technology to automatically recognize the quantity and type of mixture. This modulates the cold and hot gas, which optimizes the heat exchange during the freezing cycle. This technology also avoids potentially burning the product during the processing cycle.

“This is a very efficient batch freezer that efficiently heat treats base mixes, which extends the shelf life of ice cream when it’s displayed,” McCabe explains.

For making its mixes, Angie’s Epicurean also chose Carpigiani’s Pastomaster pasteurizer, which is not only easy to use and manage but also comes with an exchanger pump for high micronization of fat globules. This ensures a creamy and stable product. The equipment provides easily managed minimum filling levels with no risk of mix burning. It also has pastry functions for producing toppings and inclusions.

When Angie’s Epicurean opened in December 2019 with the food truck and small production space, it was an immediate success. “The minute we opened, sales were booming,” Finger says. “Because I knew from prior experience with Sweets From Heaven that toppings were a great profit margin, we offered superfood toppings with the vegan, gluten-free and plant-based ice cream. Our challenge was that if we blindfolded you, you wouldn’t know it was vegan, and we achieved that.”

Unfortunately, a short time after the brand launched, COVID reared its ugly head. “We thankfully didn’t have a brick-and-mortar store at that time, so when the pandemic hit, we looked at the big picture,” Finger says. “We were focused on building the brand and creating local awareness.”

When things began opening up in October 2020, the couple was approached to operate a six-month pop-up store at a mall. Then a real estate developer friend suggested a truck location in a West Palm Beach, Fla., spot. “It was a prime location in a square, and we were so successful there that we ordered another truck so we could park one there permanently, with another mobile truck designated for event requests,” Finger says.

Because they were dealing with vintage trucks, there were issues along the way. For example, due to the strong power requirements for refrigeration, a bigger generator was needed. “It was a bit of a logistical nightmare, with trucks breaking down and tow trucks involved,” Finger says.

The couple took a trip to South Africa, where they came upon an ornate Italian ice cream cart outside a restaurant.
“It was super busy, but we did some sleuthing to see who the equipment manufacturer was, and it was Carpigiani,” Finger says. “We ended up buying one of the carts, rebranding it and incorporating a topping station that is also a freezer from the company.”

“He is using Carpigiani’s customized Il Carrettino Classic ISA display cart for several locations and special events,” McCabe explains.

The couple also incorporated Carpigiani’s compact ISA OneShow Free Gelato Case on the side of the truck.

After debuting the rebranded carts, the concept began taking off. This led to Finger and Fernandez being approached by hospitality service provider Centerplate, a Sodexo company, which handles foodservice for the Miami Beach Convention Center and a number of U.S. stadiums, including Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

This in turn led to Angie’s Epicurean’s mobile activation at the Miami Open, 2022 Miami Grand Prix, annual Miami Swim Week, Latin Grammy Awards and other events. Its other mobile cart was available for weddings, showers and corporate events.

Angie’s Epicurean has since worked with such established brands as Hublot, Breitling and Instagram. It was also selected by the University of Florida’s MBA program for its graduate students to perform an entrepreneurial growth study as part of their final exam. “We received so many inquiries for events, so we ordered more Carpigiani machines to keep up,” Finger says. “We were getting double booked on weekends, doing pop-ups at malls and activations. We’d spend six to eight months at some locations.”

The business eventually outgrew its 250-square-foot production space, so the couple began looking for something bigger, preferably a commercial kitchen that needed minimal changes. “Luckily, we found a 2,000-square-foot bakery that received a $1 million renovation in 2017,” Finger says. “It had similar branding to Angie’s; the company made vegan cupcakes for Whole Foods and was moving to a bigger facility.”

Finger and Fernandez instantly fell in love with the space, but it had already been leased to a taco company. When this business had issues with the zoning codes, the couple was able to negotiate a lease with favorable terms.

This enabled the business to expand into wholesale. In addition to three Florida locations in Miami, West Palm Beach and Aventura, it will now provide distribution to supermarkets from Orlando to south Florida. “This brand is innovative and growing. The product is fantastic, and they do a great job marketing,” McCabe says. “It’s an ongoing partnership working together as they continue to grow.”

At press time, Angie’s Epicurean was in the process of opening its main kitchen to expand production to hotels, resorts, supermarkets and restaurants.

“Dylan and Angie will be purchasing the large Carpigiani LB 1002 G RTX Batch Freezer to expand their production in their new production facility,” McCabe says. “Angie’s Epicurean goes all out; they know how to market and spend a lot of time on the branding and promotion of their premium products, and it shows.

Bravo Wins Raves with Frozen Desserts

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,
we got more serious with the wholesale side.”

Christie Hauck
Bravo Gelato

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.”

23rd Annual Gelato Tour of Italy

23rd Annual Gelato Tour of Italy

This all-inclusive trip includes roundtrip airfare, 4-star hotels, 6 days of breakfast and fantastic dinners, entrance to the SIGEP Convention, and private hands-on gelato workshops with Italy’s largest and oldest equipment maker, Carpigiani. Join us for the trip of a lifetime!

For more information contact Malcolm Stogo 


Rising Bakery Chain Chooses Carpigiani for Exciting New Ice Cream Treats

Jeff Martin first rose to prominence as one of the competitors on the TV series “Cupcake Wars.” Founded in 2009, his wildly popular Smallcakes bakery chain bakes and frosts 18 varieties of signature cupcakes daily, as well as special-edition seasonal treats. Now, with 120 locations around the U.S. and two in the United Arab Emirates, he’s expanded the offerings at his “neighborhood bakery” concept beyond cupcakes to brownies, cookies, and his latest addition, ice cream — with the help of Carpigiani equipment.

Smallcakes is known for making exciting flavors of baked goods, and that same adventurousness now extends to its ice cream selections. “We take what we’re known for — our great cupcakes — and incorporate them into our ice cream,” Martin says. “We just don’t do boring ice cream. We make cupcake-infused ice cream. We do red velvet ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream.”

“We tested out a few other machines, and the Carpigiani really produced the consistency
I envisioned.”
—Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin, founder of Smallcakes.

Martin is a perfectionist when it comes to the texture of his ice cream. “I’m not a huge gelato fan,” he says, “and I’m not a huge fan of the old-school, rock-hard ice cream. What
we’re producing is right in the middle, and the machine has a lot to do with that. We tested out a few other machines, and the Carpigiani really produced the consistency I envisioned.” Martin currently has 12 Carpigiani LB100 batch freezers in his Smallcakes stores, with plans for another 20 to be installed soon.

Martin has high marks for the Carpigiani sales and service team. “These machines are very easy to install, very easy to work with. When we’ve had to call for service or get questions answered, it’s been very easy. They don’t make you feel like an idiot when you ask a question. I work through Kami Poppen a lot and she picks up the phone on weekends, too,” he says, adding that Carpigiani has been “very easy and very good to work with.”

Carpigiani Director of Sales Kami Poppen thinks Martin has found the formula for ice cream success with Smallcakes. “Smallcakes is the kind of customer you love to work with,” she says. “They are a fun business that’s open to trying new things that expand their menu. But they stay focused on their core theme of cupcakes. Jeff is always thinking about what he can do next to continually improve Smallcakes and bring it to the next level for his customers. The addition of ice cream bars in his new flagship location is proof that Smallcakeswill continues to be a top cupcake chain by offering a wide variety of choices while keeping it fun and creative by allowing customers to customize their own ice cream bar. And working with a rep like
Kevin Herndon of B&J/Peerless really makes it a team effort.”

Filling the molds
Smallcakes’ new Decadent concept in Overland Park, Kan.

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.”

The Fantasticks 4U equipment, ready to produce premium ice cream bars.

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