Gelatos anyone?Shilpa Nair Anand gets lessons on the gelato and much more from Twin Job, crazy about this Italian ice-cream look-alike
For Twin Job it all began with an ice cream in Kodaikanal. No, we are not talking about a love story, or maybe it is. If a man's passion for gelato can be called that. That first brush with taste got him into importing machinery from Italy, making gelato and also setting up what is probably Kerala's first and only gelato place.
“That was the best ice cream I had ever had; I just had to find out more. I asked Prasannan (the owner) how he made the ‘fruit ice cream' and he showed me the machine that made it. That was the first time I came across the word ‘gelato,” says Twin. He says that was the best ice cream that he had had until then and hasn't had better ice cream since then either.
Back home in Kottayam he got down to doing serious research on gelato. Learning more about gelato, the technique, machinery...two-and-a-half years were spent on that. Finally, his father gave him some capital and the space and ordered him to get down to doing something, making gelato actually. “Didn't seem like he expected much to come out of it!” jokes Twin. He gives all credit to his father for what he has done. But two-and-a-half years and almost two-and-a-half gelato joints later it is an altogether different story.
For those who are thinking “Gelato…?”, it is an Italian frozen dessert, like ice cream but not quite. And no, it has got nothing to do with gelatine either. The accent here is on flavour. Gelato, according to one school of thought, is the healthier of the two. It has lower butter fat content than regular ice cream and lower sugar too, low on milk too. Twin elaborates, “If there is more milk then you are bound to need more sugar and if there is more sugar then the flavour is lost.”
In between all the talk about gelatos and etymology, I ask Twin about how he came to be called thus and if he was one of a pair of twins? Very matter-of-factly he says that it has to do with when he was born or rather to before he was born, “my parents were expecting twins and there I was, a 4.5 kg baby. So my father decided to call me Twin.”
Not that easy
Making gelato is not as easy as the description sounds. There are several other factors involved in making the right gelato right from machinery to the base (of the dessert), Twin imports it all from Italy. Getting one of the imported machines working was a hair-raising experience. “That was the only one machine of its kind in India then, it was so difficult getting it to work,” he recounted.
‘Third Place' is what he calls his dessert places in Kottayam. The last two-and-a-half years have been a learning experience for him. His gelatos are work in progress, he is constantly at work trying to perfect his gelatos, he confesses to being a hardcore research and development guy. The, seemingly, reticent Twin gets all chatty at the mention of ‘gelato'. This is one guy who knows his gelato from his sorbet. Speaking of sorbets he clarifies that initially he started off exclusively with gelatos and then he realised that gelatos alone won't work and added on sorbets and semi-freddos.
The lengths to which he has gone in his quest for the perfect gelato would make any conscientious researcher proud. “I got CCTV cameras put up just to observe the reactions of people when they tasted a particular gelato. Of course I would ask also but this was better,” he says. Twin is a lover of exotic flavours, but he took a reality check and decided to stick to conventional flavours with the odd chocolate chilli kind of flavour thrown in, for his own sake! Actually for each of the desserts there are categories of flavours. For instance for gelato there are flavours such as mascarpone/yogurt, Italian, fruits, cookies, candies and nuts…lots to choose from.
Although he works with a base/flavour that he procures from an importer, he works on those and develops new flavours: Oreo Cookie gelato or a Banana Caramel Praline gelato or guava flavoured one for that matter. Incidentally he says that developing the base for the gelato is not rocket science “if fresh fruits are readily and easily available.”
Chilli chocolate too
A sampling session of Third Place gelatos follows. Creamy? Yes. Sweet? Hardly. The taste? Yes…yummm…(there are many flavours to pick from and we go through each!) chocolate; strawberry; figs and dates; chilli chocolate; vanilla…the list goes on. Twin looks intently for reactions as the session at Itty's progresses. All that CCTV business makes sense now. The flavours really come through, the sugar and the dairy content do not drown the flavours; lighter on the conscience too.
And if you are the sort who is haunted by thoughts of what goes into the making of an ice cream then this is the thing for you. These are preservative-free too. The shelf life of the desserts does not exceed five days (in Kochi) and in Kottayam a couple of days. It is not easy transporting the stuff, says Twin.
Why did it take so long moving out of Kottayam? “I cannot market stuff, I am a research and development guy, probably that is why. I needed to be absolutely sure and convinced.”
Another thing is that there can't be a substitute-to-ice cream mentality. Getting people to like, let alone love, gelato is tough. First there is the quantity and then the price; but, says Twin, that is to do with the very nature of ice cream which “has more air and therefore is more in terms of quantity.”
Coming to the other cold dessert of Italian origin, semi-freddo. Translated, it means partially cold. A pastry, mousse-like really, that is ‘partially cold'. Of what led him to that he says that he prefers his pastries cold, not the ‘collapsible' variety and dislikes the oily aftertaste/feeling in the mouth that a pastry leaves.
The principle of the semi-freddo is more cream and less cake….in short a cake/pastry that is not too sinful ‘calorifically' speaking. There are many flavours to choose from these too.
One look at his website and you know this is one passionate maker of gelatos. Anything you want to know about gelatos, sorbets or semi-freddos… you can find it here. More than about being passionate about gelatos, Twin is a lesson in doing something with perfection for the sheer love of it; not just for the moolah.