A Different Kind of Frozen Assets at Sweet Republic
Q&A with Helen Yung
Co-Founder and Ice Cream Chef of Sweet Republic in Phoenix, ARIZONA
What makes Sweet Republic unique?
We make all our ice creams from scratch using all natural ingredients, starting with a base made from Arizona milk and cream.
What is your earliest ice cream memory?
Eating ice cream with my family in Hong Kong, where I grew up.
What is your brand’s most popular flavor?
Salted Butter Caramel Swirl.
What is your favorite flavor?
Toffee Banofi Sundae. It’s two scoops of Madagascar Vanilla in a waffle bowl with a fresh banana, salted caramel, almond toffee brittle, and whipped cream.
What is the most unique flavor that Sweet Republic ever offered?
The three that stand out to me are Coconut Cashew Curry, Habanero Bacon Avocado, and Blue Cheese & Date.
Is there a flavor you love(d) but that didn’t find an audience?
We’re known for our unusual flavors, so we have a small audience of adventurous customers that are always willing to try something new—although many drew the line at Garlic.
What inspires you and why?
I lived on four different continents before I settled down in Arizona, so I was initially inspired by those experiences. Now, I’m inspired by our local community—from chefs to local artisans to farmers.
How did you get into the ice cream business?
My business partner Jan Wichayanuparp and I met in New York during investment banking associate training. We witnessed the events of 9/11, and we bonded over food—we decided to start a business a few years later that would bring people happiness through food.
How did you learn to make ice cream?
I started using the crème anglaise techniques I learned at Le Cordon Bleu in Australia, and then I experimented using cookbooks at home in San Francisco. I also enrolled in ice cream and gelato classes across the country to learn how to make commercial-size batches.
What is the secret to scooping ice cream?
Cup or cone? (If cone, what kind?)?
Our made-from-scratch waffle cones.
What is your topping of choice?
We make all our own toppings except for the sprinkles. Personally, I love the hot fudge.
Best advice you can share for those who want to get into the ice cream biz?
Save up a lot of money before you start—ice cream is a very capital intensive business. If you want to make good ice cream, you have to get the best equipment. Refrigeration ain’t cheap, plus something will always be breaking down on you.
Any industry mentor or person who inspires you?
Any advice for making ice cream at home?
Ice cream is both art and science. Keep experimenting, and you will improve with every mistake you make.
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