During the Minnesota State Fair, Kemps is subjecting the two finalists in its Hometown Favorites flavor contest to a lick-off, every day at 1 p.m.
Jennifer Folkens of Rogers came up with the idea for Land of 10,000 Licks, a mix of caramel, toffee, and sea salt swirled into a base of sweet cream ice cream, and Kelly Moritz of St. Paul dreamed up Pubcorn and Peanuts, which mixes salted peanuts and dark chocolate with popcorn-flavored ice cream. But it was Kemps food scientist Logan Julstrom who turned their concepts into multi-gallon, retail-ready reality.
The Hot Dish spoke to Julstrom to learn more about her jealousy-inducing job.[jump]
What path did you take to get to Kemps? I have a bachelors in food science and masters in food science/food chemistry from Kansas State University. I worked at Wells Blue Bunny worked for a few years and then came to Le Cordon Bleu to get my chef certificate. I've also worked at Target on their frozen and dairy line.
What's a typical day at work like? My typical day is never typical. The crux of my job is identifying new trends out there, where can we take dairy to the next level, so I'm researching journals and blogs for trends...I try to see things from a broad perspective.
What sort of flavor ideas intrigue you? I draw a lot of inspiration from non-food--a lot of the current flavor trends start in beverage. Say, for example, I see a cucumber melon body wash and I might think, 'how would that translate to a frozen water ice?'
And then, of course, you spend a lot of your time actually creating samples, testing them, and revising, like with the development of Pubcorn and Peanuts involving three different initial versions: one with cocolate covered peanuts, another with peanut halves, and a third with crushed peanuts. How much ice cream do you end up sampling? [Laughs.] Lots and lots. It's hard to put a number on. We're sampling new products we make, products we're experimenting with, new ones that hit the market. Some days its up to 20 or more, some days just 2 to 3. One time we did a new product cutting and we had 28 different items--when you get too many you get sensory overload, it just became, 'let's eat it, it's so good.'
Can you share an example of one of your craziest flavor ideas? Growing up, when chili soup was served at school lunch we got to have it with a cinnamon roll and milk. So I made an ice cream from a sweet dairy background flavor with cinnamon roll bits and a chili soup revel. Nobody else liked it, but if I would have taken it to my high school reunion, it would have been a hit.
When new acquaintances find out what you do for a living, how do they react? They say things like, 'we love your job,' 'we're so jealous,' or 'you have the best job in the world.' The other thing they say is 'if you need a taste tester, let me know.' I would have a million taste testers if I could.
You might come close to it at the State Fair. Speaking of which, do you have a favorite among the two finalist flavors, or is that question off limits? I wish they both could win, I love them both.