Johannesburg based Paul Ballen has become the city’s leading ice cream creator. During his travels to places like New York, he discovered a culture of ice cream that we didn’t have in South Africa. The real inspiration came when he received an ice dream machine (a Krups model that made a litre at a time and that you had to put in the fridge) for his 21st birthday.
Today Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream is one of the fastest growing brands in the country, producing some of the best ice cream you will ever taste. We caught up with Paul to talk ice cream and fashion
Ice Cream has been a part of our lives for so long. How did you manage to reinvent it and make it cool again?
My ice cream venture begun by recognising the lack of an ice cream culture in South Africa. Throughout my travels, I recognised the appreciation and vast selection of ice cream, and wondered why it didn’t exist in South Africa. Since I made my first batch of ice cream in my parents’ kitchen, it has been my goal to create ice cream in the way that it should be made: with real ingredients and in a range of flavours ranging from the more traditional, classic ones to the unexpected flavours. I believe that I have educated many Joburgers about what ice cream is supposed to be. It isn’t that artificial, non-dairy mass made by big multinationals. It is, in fact, something that is crafted and made with goodness.
Where did your passion for ice cream start and how did you manage to make a business of it?
Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream, wasn’t something that happened overnight and was something that developed over many years. Being brought up by my American father and South African mother, I visited Manhattan every year to visit my family. From a young age, on the hot summer streets, I would visit shops, enjoying smooth, creamy ice cream. I began to realise that my home country didn’t offer any of these delicious treats. All that was available in the freezers isles of local supermarkets were commercial ice creams, made with fillers like vegetable fats and palm fat, and pumped with air. For my 21st birthday, my mom bought me an ice cream machine. After playing around with different recipes and attempting to make the perfect batch, I soon started giving friends and family tubs. I came to realise that what I was making was better than anything else that I could buy. By experimenting, and by posting new batches and flavours online, I decided to have an ice cream & waffle day at my home. This was the beginning of what would become Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream. I asked my artist mom, to draw up some labels for me, found some tubs and started to market it. I had a dedicated Facebook page, and order form website, and used my personal Instagram and Twitter amounts to let people know about the weird & wacky flavours I was making. And then I guess one thing led to another. More and more people got to know about it, and I decided that I should start approaching some niche coffee shops & restaurants.
With increased demand, I was forced to buy another small domestic machine. However, with time passing I wasn’t able to cope and purchased a bigger more professional ice cream machine, with a built in freezer that could make a litre an hour. One machine, then two machines, then three.
Recently I joined forces with a varsity friend to take Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream to the next level, and now the sky is the limit.
Do you make the ice cream yourself – isn’t that too time consuming?
Ice cream making is hands on and is a time consuming process, and that’s the biggest problem I am dealing with these days. I realise that as my bussiness grows, I wont be able to do it all. But I think no matter how big the company becomes, I will always be in the production kitchen creating the recipes and guiding the process. At the end of day, it’s my love for ice cream making that got me to where I am – I would like to hold on to that.
Now onto fashion – how would you describe your personal style?
Interestingly enough, my style is completely reflected in my ice cream. I’m always trying new and unconventional things, but ultimately I like to keep it simply and classy. I make sure that everything I put on is tasteful. I’m also producing ice cream most of the week, so have to make sure my clothing is comfortable, but at the same time stylish and formal enough for meetings.
What are the key fashion items you can’t live without?
A great pair of jeans & chinos.
What advice would you give to other Threaded Men when it comes to fashion?
Keep it simple and classic. I’m the type of guy that would rather have a good quality item of clothing than have a wider range. You would be surprised how much you can mix and match with a small selection.
How does fashion influence the aesthetic and design of your ice cream brand?
Ice cream has been around for decades, its not just a fad. That’s why we strive to keep our image and brand timeless and classy. Although we are playful and fun in our flavours, and in the way we conduct ourselves, we intend to keep it clean and sophisticated. Like classic items of clothing are always fashionable, a good ice cream will always be appreciated.
What does the future hold for Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream?
We want to spread the ice cream love. We want people to become aware about what good ice cream is all about! Eventually Paul’s Homemade will have everyone screaming for ice cream (we hope)! We plan to keep things dynamic and hip, while expanding throughout Joburg, South Africa, and maybe even abroad one day.
Thank you Paul Ballen for letting us into your world. For More info go to www.paulshomemadeicecream.com