I sat down with A La Minute's executive chef and owner Ryan Berk at his new location in the Orange Circle to literally get the scoop on what all of this liquid nitrogen buzz was about. As we began to chat in the vintage farmhouse-esque creamery, Berk graciously made sure every flavor was brought to our table. It was like the clouds opened up and there was the answer to all of my hot summer day's prayers.
How'd you get started?
I've always been passionate about food. Running around in the yard, growing strawberries and tomatoes as a kid. I really liked the ideology of food and where it was coming from! I got started in the industry when I was 14 at a little Thai restaurant in my hometown, Redlands. I started as a dishwasher and sort of made my way up to a cook position. I was the only white kid in the kitchen getting trained by all of these Thai ladies. That's where I really gained a respect for culture and where the food was coming from.
Did you always know this was something you wanted to do?
I think it just evolved. I would save up every year to travel somewhere around the world. Right when I turned 16 I would go somewhere whether it was, India, West Africa, or South America. I would just leave and experience a bit of culture. I've always wanted to understand where different food was coming from. I don't know where the passion came from, but I've always just loved food.
Why ice cream?
At the casino I worked at we used to get big shipments of frozen fish and with those shipments of frozen fish there would be packets of dry ice. I knew about the process of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen or dry ice and so I wanted to try it out myself. I took a packet of dry ice out, smashed it up with a hammer, turned it into a powdery dry ice form, and made an ice cream base. Threw it into a mixing bowl and made some ice cream with it. I fell in love with the texture, the structure of the product, and the fact that you can utilize any local ingredient, any local vendor. I think I was just mesmerized by that process.
What does it take to turn an idea into something physical?
It's a lot of work. Lots of dedication. Lot's of tears. Man, it's really really difficult but it's extremely rewarding when people receive your product and enjoy it. Sometimes I stand off to the side when it's busy and listen to customers talk about the product and their joy with it. That's pretty amazing to me.
What's the biggest thing you've learned?
Just keep going. There's no time to stop.
It seems like you found something you're really passionate about and just went with it! Do you have any advice for other people who want to follow their passion?
Do it! You get an idea and you think it's unique and good enough get other people on board, especially if you're young. I think we're one of the strongest generations in a long time to really take our dreams and put them into reality. So I think we just need to keep going with it. We've got a lot to show this world and it's necessary to follow our dreams.