Food Science Alumna Opens a Local Ice Cream Shop
When it comes to making ice cream, Betsy Ng (BSc Food, Nutrition and Health 2010) doesn’t take shortcuts. “The flavour and the texture are so important, and the best way to ensure a dessert-lover’s satisfaction is to start with natural and, if possible, local ingredients.”
Ng is the co-owner of Elephant Garden Creamery, located on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. She opened the shop with her brother, Bruce, in September 2018.
“Bruce and I bring very different strengths to the business, so we’re able to divide up the work without getting into each other’s way,” Ng laughs. The name of the shop is another example of their partnership. “I love elephants, and my brother suggested ‘garden’ to evoke a calm and relaxing place to enjoy ice cream. We also added creamery to showcase the fact that we offer other dairy-based desserts, and we hope to grow the menu in the future.”
After graduating from UBC, Ng worked at a couple of different food companies doing quality assurance, but the dream of opening a dessert shop was never far from her mind. Yet like most young entrepreneurs, she realized she needed a specialty in order to shine in a crowded field. “Especially in a city like Vancouver, where opening any business comes with a financial risk,” Ng said. “I really wanted to take the time and get it right.”
In her spare time, she began doing research into ice cream manufacturing, and eventually decided to enroll in two courses to take her passion further. The first was an ice cream manufacturing course in the U.S., followed by second a gelato-making workshop in Italy.
“I spent four weeks in Bologna, learning how to make fresh gelato. The most important skill I took away from this trip was the understanding of the functionality of the ingredients, and learning how they work together. I wouldn’t be able to make the flavours that I do today without that knowledge.”
Her flavours are now a major draw for customers. “Our bestsellers are the Mango-Coconut Sticky Rice, Hong Kong Milk Tea, and Vietnamese Coffee,” Ng noted. “But we try to keep things interesting by offering three rotating seasonal flavours.” She also found that creating original flavours has become much easier with time, as she is now able to produce a result within one or two tries.
As for her inspiration, Ng doesn’t have to look much further than through the windows of her shop. “Vancouver is such a diverse and multi-cultural city, and I wanted to reflect that in our flavours.”
Ng first began making the ice cream in a commercial kitchen space, and selling it from a cart at farmers’ markets across the city in the summer. It was a great way to be a part of the community and begin to grow a customer-base.
To entice customers to visit during the wet Vancouver winters, Ng got creative and introduced a new menu item: salted cheese boba tea toast, served with your choice of ice cream flavour. “It was a huge hit, and people continue to ask for it!”
Follow @elephantgardencreamery on Instagram, and visit their store at 2080 Commercial Drive, Vancouver.