This Ames, Iowa-based university experienced so much success with its new gelato program that it decided to expand its offerings to multiple locations and formats
It doesn’t get much colder than January in Iowa, and logic would dictate frozen desserts like gelato may not be popular with Iowa State University (ISU) students at the start of the second semester. Yet, when the school’s new gelato program rolled out during one of the state’s record-breakingly cold winters, the popularity of the dessert was evident from the get-go.
Located in the central Iowa town of Ames, ISU’s campus of 35,000 students includes, on average, 11,000 meal plan holders. Its 26 foodservice locations include dining centers, fast-casual spots, retail cafes, convenience stores, a food court, a coffee shop, vending and catering operations, and a food truck. Gelato was not a part of the university’s menu until its introduction at the opening of the renovated Roasterie Café in January 2019.
“Gelato is a fantastic product that our students don’t get to experience a lot in Iowa,” says Jamie Lenz, Assistant Director of ISU Dining. “We are always wanting to be on the cutting edge, bringing our students new and innovative food options to experience unique flavors they may never have thought to order. This also gives our staff the ability to be creative in their work.”
Despite launching the gelato program in cooler weather, it was hot immediately and stayed that way. “We sold over 29,000 scoops of gelato or 180 scoops a day between January 14 and May 10,” says Chad Bauman, Communications Specialist for ISU’s residence halls and dining department.
April 2019 was the busiest month for gelato at ISU, with close to 5,000 scoops sold, and its busiest day was April 8 with 224 scoops sold, according to Emory Telios, assistant manager of ISU Dining’s creamery.
The cafe features eight gelato flavors on a daily basis, which includes five standards — vanilla, chocolate, coffee, raspberry, and salted caramel. Three new recipes debut each month. “The most popular flavor by far is the salted caramel, but the goat cheese and cherry, banana cream pie, earl grey sorbet, and pomegranate also were hot sellers [as LTO flavors],” Bauman adds.
Texture represents a key attribute of ISU’s gelato, serving as an indicator of quality. “It’s based on being creamier, less icy, and at the right texture and consistency that we’re looking for,” says Telios.
Exploring Its Options
Prior to establishing its gelato program, ISU’s dining department looked at several equipment options. While researching other operations, the ISU dining team found the majority of operators they saw were utilizing equipment from Carpigiani.
“As we were determining what equipment to purchase, we visited Carpigiani’s [training center in Vernon Hills, Ill.] so we could see firsthand how the equipment worked as well as the ease of operating and cleaning and flexibility of using it,” says Lenz. “In addition, we had the opportunity to take advantage of Carpigiani’s knowledgeable gelato chef, Baron Gottsacker, who has given us an extreme advantage in our startup process.”
“For us to have a contact available like Chef Baron to help us out with recipes, troubleshooting, etc., it has made it easy for us to put a successful program together.”
Jamie Lenz, Assistant Director of ISU Dining
Carpigiani machines are the heart of Iowa State’s gelato program.
The university chose Carpigiani’s Pastomaster 120 to make the gelato base in-house, along with the LB-502 RTX Tru 2 Batch Freezer, READY 802, Mister Art Plus, Pasto Chef and blast freezers.
“We use both the batch freezer and pasteurizer daily, putting milk, cream and sugar in the pasteurizer for 12 hours before using the finished base, and we use the freezer to produce gelato and sorbets,” says Emory Julios, ISU’s Assistant Creamery Manager. “The equipment is easy to clean and operate, and the pasteurizer has a digital readout, so it’s easy for employees to know if it’s heating, cooling or aging and for how long. Also, the batch freezer runs pretty quickly.”
The equipment package ISU chose is not only easy to use but can also produce large quantities of gelato in a very short time, says Gottsacker, who serves as a chef/instructor for Carpigiani. “ISU is very food-oriented, with chefs cooking almost everything from scratch,” he says. “After they contacted us, we brought them into our Vernon Hills, Ill., offices and made a couple of gelato batches to test the soft-serve machines.”
In October 2018, Gottsacker conducted a small training session on the equipment, and just three months later, ISU’s team was ready to go. “We did two days of training on campus and sent Julios to our Gelato University program,” says Gottsacker. “The learning curve is not steep at all.”
A Seamless Grand Opening
As a result of this focus on training, ISU’s program launched without a hitch. “They made sure to give us all the time we needed to work with the equipment and not just rush us through a demo,” says Lenz.
“We received top-notch training by their chef and his entire attention for as long as we wanted it. And we were able to test the equipment out ourselves, making sure we were comfortable with it, and had all questions answered by the chef before we left.”