Meet Cold Stone's Head Tastemaster Ray
We had a very special opportunity to interview the man with the best job in the world - Cold Stone's Head Tastemaster Ray! Could you imagine getting paid to create and taste test ice cream for a living? We asked our readers to send in some questions they would like Ray to answer and we finally get to share his answers with you! Check out the interview below.....
1) First things first, how on earth did you get a job like this? "I’ve been lucky enough in my whole career to be able to work in the ice cream and dairy business in Arizona . I became an ice cream expert and when it came time to make the move to a great company like Cold Stone Creamery, it was an easy decision for them and me. They could see my passion for the business and the knowledge I accumulated over time. I like to think that I make things fun. I know many food scientists that are so cut and dry. They’re smart but no personality. Hey, if you have to work – make it FUN, right?"
2) Qualifications for a job like yours? "Well plain and simple…I love ice cream. Specifically, in college I took a lot of science and went back to graduate school for food science. I enjoy cooking at home and view my kitchen as a “lab”. But I really came to love the ice cream side of the dairy business. It was fun and it allowed me to use math and science and apply creativity. I love to try all types of ice cream and different flavors no matter where I am. Eating ice cream is one of my favorite things to do. Did I mention I loooove ice cream!?? Yes what everyone knows about me is that I love ice cream. And Cold Stone’s ice cream is the best. I love love love it!"
3) Do you ever get tired of ice cream? "No, never. And did a say I love ice cream?"
4) Do you have a family? Kids? If so, what do they think about your job? "Yes, I have a family. My wife and I are high school sweethearts and have been happily married 32 years. Our two boys are in their mid-twenties and married also. They think my job is great, they certainly reap the benefits of it (eating ice cream) but neither one of them has followed me into the food business. What’s up with that??"
5) Throughout your career did you kids every help you come up with creations? "Not usually, they have had some ideas in the past but they just wait to see the next thing that Dad has up his sleeve."
6) How long does it take from idea to finished product to create a flavor? "It is important to get it right. Most of the time, it takes a month or two. But sometimes a flavor can be tricky, like coffee or peach, so it may take a much longer time. Again, no set process, no set time schedule. When its right that’s when we set a release date."
7) What's your favorite flavor / creation? "I’ve definitely had many and it seems every new one becomes my favorite. However, this past summer’s release of the Oreo Creme was fantastic to say the least. I took the best part of an Oreo cookie and made it into an ice cream. And then I made Creations, cupcakes, cakes and sandwiches with it. An explosion of Oreo Creme. What fun!"
8) Tell us a bit about YOU? Hobbies? Interests...etc... "I love my family, they are everything to me. The best time of the week for me is at my house when I get to cook for them. We all gather around the table eat and tell stories, think up new ideas or solve the world’s problems. I am a guitar player. I play with a friend of mine, Robert, who is a superb guitarist. He challenges me to become better all the time. We play mostly classic rock but do some new music as well. I love all kinds of food especially when it made with love and has plenty of flavor."
9) Who comes up with the names? "We all do. I like to name all of my Creations but sometimes someone else comes up with a better name. Usually the marketing department does a great job of naming things."
10) Tell us the process of creating each flavor - "Creating is one of my favorite things to do. There isn’t any set process. I suppose that would be predictable, instead, I draw inspiration from various culinary disciplines. A dessert from a foreign country may inspire me to translate it into an ice cream or Creation. Likewise, a holiday, a company promotion, a letter from a customer or a crew member or a store owner may awaken the “bug” in me to do something about it. A lot of people have sent in good ideas however, I’m looking for GREAT ideas. The ones that make people say wow and move the needle."
11) What kind of training do you have for this kind of "job"? "Mostly it has been “on the job” training. After college I was hired by the Carnation Company. They made fresh milk, cultured products and ice cream. I learned a lot from being in the company of some great dairy foods people. After 8 years it was acquired by Nestle and even more of the food world opened up to me. So it was exactly 15 years with those two big companies and 32 years total in the and dairy foods business. Over the last nine and a half years, has afforded me the greatest degree of latitude to create anything I can think of."
Thanks Ray...I think we're all jealous of you!! :)
**Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post. Thanks ColdStone for allowing us to interview your Head Tastemaster!! What a "cool" job!!