I chatted with Claire Kelsey from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium an exciting and inventive ice cream parlour with flavour combinations from Graphene and honey to treacle and plenty in between. We talked about everything from owning an ice cream van and the first visions for the business to being a woman in the food industry.
So tell me about Gingers Comfort Emporium? What is it and how did it start?
CK: I bought an old ice cream van in winter of 2009. I had no real big plan, just to do it up with my family and friends, using all their various talents. It was a side project to my work at the time as a freelance food stylist.
I had an idea that it could kind of be multi-functional… Soups in winter, cake in autumn, ice cream in summer! But actually, it was a total ball ache to mould it into all those things and do a proper job of it, and I just fell in love with the process of making ice-cream. So ice cream it was!
How would you describe the character of your brand?
CK: Award-winning, small batch, inventively flavoured, real dairy ice cream. We don’t bow to trends, we don’t pander to food hang-ups. We make interesting and incredibly delicious ice cream! My message has always been kind of, ‘give yourself a break‘. Oh, Kit Kat did that already, ha!
But what I mean is, everything is so serious these days around food. We just have fun and want people to enjoy their treats as much as possible.
What is your favourite part of the job?
CK: Being challenged by my clients. I work with cocktails bars to enhance their creations. PLY asked me to combine Coconut milk and Campari, which I thought would be awful, but was actually amazing!
This year we are working with Manchester International Festival 2019 to theme our menu on Albert Square to the programme. 2 of our ice cream flavours are David Lynch themed… “Bob’s Big Boy Chocolate Shake & Blue Velvet Cake” and “Damn Fine Coffee and Cherry Pie” which is Heart & Graft espresso ice cream with cherry sorbet and pie crust. Working with any other local independents is always a joy too.
What made you make the leap into starting your own business?
CK: I’ve worked for myself for getting on 16 years. I need to be independent. It’s not really a leap, it was a leap going from employment in kitchens to freelance food stylist work, but building my brand evolved naturally and was invested in as and when it earnt the money, I’ve never borrowed.
Would you say the hospitality industry is male dominated? What was/is it like breaking through that as a female businesswoman?
CK: It’s largely populated with males but I never felt it excludes women. In kitchens you need toughness, that’s the criteria, and some people are, some aren’t. Many women are, many men aren’t. I’ve rarely felt discriminated against. There’s an old boys club but those dinosaurs’ days are numbered.
When you’re making something people want, gender falls away. Unless someone’s a total idiot, then why would you deal with them? I have walked out of some mechanics, to be fair, wondering why they were so awkward with me and gone, oh! That was sexism! And never gone back. There was one guy who went “how do you know what engine that is?!” and I said, “cause it’s my bloody engine!”.
What are the highs and the lows of the experience thus far?
CK: Highs – working with my mates at festivals, having a book deal with a major publisher, winning 4 British Street Food Awards, opening the parlour in Afflecks. Lows – bills bills bills! Being poorer than when I was a footloose fancy-free stylist!
What’s next for Ginger’s?
CK: We’ve been developing our vegan flavours for a couple of years now, and they’re the most exciting to get right! It’s really rewarding when non-vegans order them as much as the dairy flavours. Apart from that, just keep on keeping on really. It’s going to be a tough few years I think. I just hope the rain stops soon.
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium’s van will be located in the heart of Festival Square for the duration of Manchester International Festival 2019. (That’s Albert Square in case you’re wondering). Feel free to pop and and tuck into some amazing ice creams.
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium at MIF 2019
Where: Festival Square
When: Friday 30th June to Sunday 16th July.