“I just want to have fun, and just bring a little joy, peace, and ice cream to people’s lives before I get out of here.” Who could argue with this sentiment from Chef Liz Rogers, founder and executive chef of Creamalicious Ice Creams? The Cincinnati-based brand has been around since 2014 and has been sold in supermarkets around the Midwest, but starting this month, it will be available at Walmarts nationwide. Each of the flavors is a testament to Rogers’ Southern roots, and the company prides itself on being 100% minority-owned, with a focus on partnering with other women-owned and minority-owned businesses. Rogers spoke to The Takeout about her business, and how to get innovative with ice cream. (And by the way, she recommends starting with Aunt Poonie’s Caramel Pound Cake and the Slap Yo’ Momma Banana Pudding.)
The Takeout: How did you come into the ice cream world?
Chef Liz Rogers: I am an executive chef and restaurateur by trade. I specialized in Southern foods, but pastry is my weak point. I love, love sweets. So I was talking to my sous chef one day [about eight years ago] and I said, “You know what would be so cool? If this slice of sweet potato pie were like ice cream.” Because ice cream is the world’s number-one dessert.
[At Creamalicious] We take four generations of family-owned recipes from my great-grandmother, grandmother, and my mom. We bake [the cakes and pies] in their entirety, and then they’re intertwined in a premium ice cream blend. Creamalicious, I would have to say, is the history of family, the South, and better times. Each flavor has a story, such as Aunt Poonie’s Caramel Pound Cake. She was my godmother—she’s passed away, but she made her pound cake on the stove in a cast iron skillet. She never baked it. It was so cool that she actually cooked it in a skillet passed down through the generations. When she poured the caramel on, it caramelized the cake and flipped out of the pan. So I was thinking, that would be the coolest ice cream blend. I even have a fried chicken and waffles ice cream.
TO: With real chicken in it?
LR: No, what’s so dope about this flavor is that we did it with maple-infused ice cream, and then I did a vanilla bean Belgian waffle. Then for the chicken flavor, we just used a little poultry seasoning. So the flavor profiles are so cool! It’s a conversation piece, too. We want to just relate back to being at our grandmother’s house, coming home from church on Sunday, [anticipating] the favorite part of the meal, which would be dessert. All the kids around the table getting a big scoop of apple cobbler. Different things like that—just better times.
We’re in unprecedented times right now, and it’s an entrepreneur’s dream. There’s so much going on in the world, but we find that we all have something in common: we all love ice cream. We all have more in common than we think. With Creamalicious launching, being one of the first African American ice cream manufacturers in the world and the only one today—it’s not just historical, but it’s inspirational.
This ice cream gives me a platform to do amazing things. I can’t change the world, but I could make some ripples in the water and help other chefs and minority businesses try to rebuild the community. There have been so many restaurants and people who have lost their businesses; from a culinary standpoint, I found that that was my favorite place. Just being in the kitchen, being creative, putting together whatever I wanted. And if it didn’t work out, I could start over.
TO: Is that why you’re drawn to dessert? That sort of joy?
LR: Yes! Because it’s comfort food. There are so many ice cream brands out there that are low-calorie, and then there’s Creamalicious. I want to feel good about what I’m doing. If I’m going to do it, you know what? I’m going to go for it. I’ll just have to do 10 more sit-ups. But it’s an indulgence, right?
It’s not just an ice cream you put on the cone. It’s okay to put it on a plate with an amazing dessert and pair it with a wine, or have some gourmet coffee or tea with it. You can pretty much do whatever you want to do with it, and you can have the best of both worlds. You don’t have to decide. “Do I want a piece of apple pie, or do I want ice cream?” You can have both.
TO: Ice cream is definitely a dessert where the quality of the ingredients is palpable. That’s not true of all sweets.
LR: A lot of ice cream is about cost. People want to make the ice cream that’s most cost-effective in order to be profitable. But I don’t want to sacrifice anything, because people can really tell. When you’re creating something like this, it has to have an amazing flavor, but it’s not necessarily only about the flavor, it’s about the storytelling. Real people, real times, and real things—the authenticity of the brand draws the consumer in. The customer wants to be part of making history. It’s a win for the little guys that have had many doors slammed in our faces. “You know what? If she can do it, I can do it too.”
2020 was the craziest year for our country and the world, and we all started to think about how much time we have, because tomorrow’s not promised. So, what can I create that somebody could say, “If this was my last meal, I’d be okay with that”? We want to be fun, whimsical, and give you an experience. There’s no ice cream like it on the market currently. We’ve created our own dessert category, and have brought the comforts of home in.
TO: Coming out of the tumultuous year that was 2020, what are your plans going forward? What would you want people to know about the ice creams you make?
LR: I just want the world to know that, where Nike has “Just Do It,” I’m like, “Just Go For It.” I just want to be wherever there is a scoop to be had. I want to be on that boardwalk in Venice; if we ever get back out here on those roller skates and people are on the beach, I want a cart there. I want to be in the stadiums. To just be a part of the world, bringing something together, where there’s no hate. For just one moment, y’all just share a scoop. Because we’re not that different, none of us. As entrepreneurs, we have these things that we want to do—and we had such a crazy, unprecedented year that this is an opportunity for people to just go for their dreams. Let them eat ice cream. That’s all we want to do.