Chefs' Favorite Ice Cream Flavors

Food Network Kitchen’s NoChurn Vanilla Ice Cream as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2015

Matt Armendariz, 2015

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

When the temperature soars, the pros call upon a classic summertime staple to stave off a heat-induced meltdown: ice cream. We talked to chefs across the country to find out which do-it-yourself versions of this frozen dessert they favor. Get inspired to create your own scoops that will keep you coolly surfing through the next heat wave, cone in hand.

Bold Combinations

Josh Gripper, award-winning pastry chef of The Dutch at W South Beach, is what one might call an ice cream aficionado. His chosen style is custard-based ice creams with milk, emulsified with butter. The result is a smooth, creamy composition that’s best consumed immediately. “The best part about making your own ice cream is eating it fresh out of the machine. That’s when it has the perfect consistency,” says Gripper. When it comes to flavors, Gripper has a hard time narrowing down his top picks, but he does thoroughly enjoy French toast and strawberry-balsamic. “The French toast is fantastic, like eating frozen breakfast, and the strawberry-balsamic is perfectly balanced and not cloyingly,” he notes.

Create your own breakfast-centric scoops and other customized combinations by adding stir-ins to these creamy bases, which are no-churn to boot.


Frozen desserts need not contain dairy. Vegan whiz kid Matthew Kenney of Plant Food + Wine in Miami and Venice, Calif., makes his animal-product-free flavors in a Pacojet, a Swiss machine that takes frozen solid ingredients and churns them, resulting in just the right temperature and consistency. “My favorite is a banana split dessert,” says Kenney. He riffs on the classic by combining scoops of his strawberry goji, vanilla hemp and chocolate maca ice creams.

Experiment with exotic scoops of your own. Start with a vegan vanilla ice cream recipe, then add mix-ins to make beyond-basic options like mint chocolate chip and almond butter swirl.

Simple Buttermilk

Pastry Chef Sydney Rainwater keeps things cool at New Orleans hot spot Trinity, a new fine-dining establishment in the lower French Quarter, by incorporating ice cream into many of her desserts. Whether in the restaurant or at-home, Rainwater leans toward custard-based recipes, preferring the richness and smooth texture that comes from using egg yolks. Her favorite flavor: buttermilk. “I love buttermilk ice cream because of its tartness,” explains Rainwater. “It’s refreshing, and [it] provides a nice balance to sweet desserts.”

Another fan of buttermilk is Vivian Howard, television personality and chef-owner of North Carolina’s Chef & the Farmer and the Boiler Room. However, Howard prefers the flavor in the form of sherbet. “It’s my all-time favorite because it’s really refreshing and kind of tangy,” says Howard. “I know it’s weird, but ice cream makes me really thirsty in the summer, so I’ll always go with a sorbet or our buttermilk sherbet over a custard or cream-based ice cream.”

Punch up a buttermilk base with add-ins to create indulgent flavors like this butter-pecan option from Sunny Anderson.

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