One hot summer day a couple years ago shortly after arriving in Geneva, we were wandering around town and had a hankering for some good ice cream. So we googled: “best ice cream shop in Geneva” seeking hints on where we might go to find some. Up came a place called “ArtyGlaces”, located right in town, a few blocks away from the junction of the Rhone and Arve rivers. We put away our phones and made our way there.
Three years and much incredibly delicious ice cream later, I can honestly say that it was the best recommendation I’ve ever received from Google. This is a fun story about friendship and making delicious ice cream.
My friends Linda and Philippe have been making ice cream at ArtyGlaces since 2012. They are the entire operation, just the two of them. Philippe (who also has an MBA from a prestigious university) is a trained ice cream maker, having learned the craft in Italy. He is the “chemist” crafting the detailed recipes for any particular flavor, and they make roughly 40 different flavors of gelato and sorbet. Watching Philippe work is like watching a scientist in a lab, measuring out each ingredient to the gram, using a hand-held refractometer to measure the content of sugar in a specific fruit, and obsessively cleaning as he goes about his work. Here he is adding some sugar to the base for his next batch.
Linda is a very talented graphic artist and designs all the packaging – cups and lids – that feature beautiful images of the natural ingredient used in each flavor, as well as all the promotional materials. She’s also the friendliest person you’d ever want to meet, a trait that shines through when it comes to customer relations and service. On our first visit to the shop, she insisted we take a taste of every single flavor before deciding. That day I thought maybe there was something special about us, but it turns out that’s how she treats everyone on their first visit. She’s an outstanding cook and knows her way around a kitchen, a skill that is very valuable for an ice cream maker. Here she is working with some fresh vanilla.
Here the two of them are working together.
We know good ice cream when we taste it, so it wasn’t long before we started making regular visits to ArtyGlaces, not just for the ice cream, but also to drop in and say “bonjour” to our new friends. It’s safe to say we became “regulars”, finding any excuse we could to buy their ice cream. We hosted a party with around 30 people on two occasions and what did we feature for desert? Eight flavors of ArtyGlaces ice cream, that’s what. We brought just about all of our house guests, there, too Here’s a picture I took of Linda with my brother-in-law Bruce and sister-in-law Julie along with their daughters Laura and Grace on their visit last October.
As time went on, we moved beyond a business/customer relationship and built a solid friendship. Whenever we visited, they would give me tips on my French (Linda once told me that I just needed to improve my grammar and my vocabulary… what else is there?, I wondered) and we helped Linda once edit a cover letter in English for a potential client. They invited us out to their home in the French mountains outside of Geneva, and we had them over for a lasagna dinner at our place.
Now fast-forward to just a few months ago. We were talking about their business one day, and I happened to mention that some day it would be fun to spend a day helping them make the ice cream. They readily accepted my offer, and the next thing I know, I’m spending the day helping to measure and mix the ingredients, writing “best-if-used-by” dates on all the cups that they sell to restaurants, outdoor parks and other places… (They have one client who is a “naturalist” and Linda and Philippe tell a funny story joking about who’s job it was to make that delivery run!), and any of the many other tasks required to make the best damn ice cream you’ve ever tasted.
Here’s a short video I took of me entering the shop to report to work one day. You’ll recognize the trademark SwissSojourner video production quality, or lack thereof, but it’s still fun to see.
Here’s another short video of Philippe, my mentor, making darn sure I don’t completely screw something up, which is easier to do than you might imagine.
These days, I try to get over and help them out once every week or so. I always really look forward to spending the day with Philippe and Linda. Having a relaxing coffee and croissant after arriving, then donning our aprons and getting to work, all the while speaking French and English (depending on how important it is that I understand what I’m being told) and just having a great time making really awesome ice cream. Its fun seeing the customers’ faces – kids, especially – light up when they taste it for the first time, or to hear the “regulars” discuss their favorite flavors.
One time, I noticed Philippe chuckling to himself. “What’s so funny?” I asked him. He just replied in his french way of speaking “who would have thought when you came to Geneva that you’d soon find yourself in this shop making ice cream?”. Life’s kind of funny that way.