Illegally Perfecting All-Natural Ice Cream with Nitrogen in Silicon Valley


Stanford Grad Robyn Fisher started her business by illegally selling all-natural ice cream on the street next to unemployed chefs. Today, she’s the proud owner of the super popular Smitten Ice Cream shop.


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By Fausto Mendez / Photo by Robyn Fisher

    Wired interviewed Stanford Grad Robyn Fisher on her recent successes as the owner of a made-to-order, all-natural ice cream shop that started out as an illegal operation on the street.

Wired: When you launched, it was sort of a pirate ice cream enterprise wasn’t it? Not strictly legal?

Fisher: At that time I started getting my ice cream out there in 2009, all these chefs had been laid off from restaurants. So they went to the streets to sell their food, and I joined them. We used Twitter and Facebook and about 12 of us would set up in a park or on the street and say “come and get it before the cops come.” It was totally not legal. We would get hundreds of people coming, and it was amazing. I learned so much from all of those street food chefs about pricing, marketing all sorts of things.“

    Fisher partnered up with laid off chefs to improve her recipes and business model. Around the same time, she also perfected the art of using nitrogen, all-natural ingredients, and a custom mixer to instantly freeze the ice cream sans freezer, and it’s not just flashy tech for flashy tech’s sake.

    The nitrogen technique creates the perfect texture in ice cream because the instant freeze enables her to skip some of the chemicals that ice cream makers inject into their product in order to achieve similar textures. Fisher does a really great job of explaining the science behind the cream during the interview.

"Wired: I know ice cream is cold, but what does the nature of ice crystals have to do with how good the ice cream is?

Fisher: The general gist of it is freezing speed makes all the difference in crystal size, and the smaller, the better for mouth taste and creaminess. Freezing speed is correlated with freezing temperature. So if you can freeze it really, really cold, you can get smaller ice crystals.

And if you can freeze really cold, you can freeze really fast. The benefit of that is if you make small enough batches you can freeze to order. Therefore you don’t need any of those extra ingredients that make ice cream far from natural.”

    Smitten Ice Cream is now one of San Francisco’s favorite ice cream spots, and it continues to reach new heights of fame as travelers from around the nation and the world visit the shop during their stay at the Bay Area.


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