PHUKET: Having your own ice cream factory... admit it, you dreamed about it when you were a kid, but sadly for most of us, life ends up getting in the way. For executive chef Flavio Manzoni, however, this dream came true. Along with his wife Gai, Flavio churns out as many as five hundred liters of delicious, icy goodness a day from his boutique factory in Kamala.
Hailing from Italy, and having worked for many years as a chef in top resorts around the world, Flavio has always cooked and sourced his ingredients following his personal philosophy Ė keep it simple and natural. He started Manzoni Ice Cream three years ago when he saw a market for artisan-style organic ice cream at many of the luxury resorts on the island.
"When I came down here I worked at a resort and I tried the ice cream they had... I said, what is that?" Flavio recalls with a grimace.
Confident he could do it better, he soon set up a small production facility in Kamala and began making his own ice cream in small batches. Three years on, he has just expanded to a larger factory and now makes ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurts in over 200 flavors.
"Yes, we make two hundred and twenty flavors. Mostly I stock around 80 or so at any one time and I make the rest to order... whatever the customer wants... I can make customized ice creams working with other chefs too," he says.
"When we get an order, we make the ice cream the next morning and deliver it that afternoon, the next day. We donít wait two days, none of that. We make it, label it and boom."
"We deliver all over the island [to] all the five-star-hotels, mostly. We deliver here in Phuket, to Khao Lak, Koh Yao Noi, Phi Phi island and Krabi. We even deliver to some of the island resorts by speedboat," he adds.
Since day one, Flavio has tried to source all organic ingredients whenever possible, and failing that, the highest quality he can find. Milk, his key ingredient, comes from the Dairy Home organic dairy in Nakorn Ratchasima, care of local organic food distributor Pura Organic.
"Itís all organic milk, this one is farmyard certified, which means that there are no added antibiotics, nothing. Itís a little more expensive, but the taste is like real milk," he says.
"We get mangosteens and coconuts from an organic farm in Khao Sok, all through Pura Organics. We try to be artisan and organic with our ice cream, for the children mostly, as we sell to schools too. If children are going to eat my ice cream, I donít want to put stuff that is too weird in it."
For ingredients that canít be found locally, Flavio sources them from all over the globe.
"We get green tea in from Japan, the vanilla comes from Madagascar, but I buy it in Japan too. Our pistachios are from Sicily and other ingredients from many countries."
"Many chefs, they try to take something simple and make it too complicated. I like to make it simple and natural. I believe that if you have good ingredients you donít need much else."
As a chef, he canít help but experiment with flavors and textures, and lately, he has been having some fun concocting savory ice-creams using vegetables and herbs.
"We try to use organic fruit for the sorbets and we even use vegetables. For example, with buffalo milk, we add roasted tomato and sometimes basil. Itís something different. Beetroot with goatís milk... white carrots... itís fun to experiment. But of course, this kind of thing is not as popular as it is in big cities like New York and London; the customers here are not quite ready for it," he says.
If beetroot ice cream sounds a bit extreme, donít worry, Flavio has scores of other sumptuous flavors to tempt you. I was lucky enough to be treated to just a small selection from his frozen treasure trove; pistachio, limoncello, mango, strawberry, coconut, rum and raisin, passion fruit, chocolate, and of course, vanilla. After tasting them, I truly regretted having given up on my youthful dream of owning my own ice cream factory.
Along with bulk ice cream orders, Flavio also has an impressive range of decadent handmade ice cream truffles, as well as specialty sorbets which he serves au natural
Ė in the actual skin of the fruit used to make them.
"We make our truffles with silicone molds. We do two or three hundred at a time. Like our hazelnut flavor... First we do one half, and then the other, then we put in some amaretto and put the two halves together and put it together in the chill blaster. We make our limoncello, meringue and chocolate truffles this way. With the sorbets, we have coconut flavor in its natural shell, mango in the natural skin and passion fruit in its original skin."
So now for the truly challenging question Ė with so many flavors to choose from, what is his favorite? Hesitating, Flavio answers: "The most likely one is yogurt with wild-berry. Itís an ice cream base with the starter for yogurt to give it acidity and then the fresh berries. Thatís what I like, a bit of sour, maybe tamarind too."
If you would like to know more about stocking Manzoni Ice Cream email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Khun Kay 0856693149.
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This article first appeared in the October 12-18 issue of the hard-copy Phuket Gazette newspaper. Digital subscribers may download the full issue, this week and every week, by clicking here.