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OddFellows Co-Founder Mohan Kumar and the firm’s Creative Director, Chris DiVito, tell us about the firm’s approach to translating eclectic brands into great tasting ice cream.
Since launching back in 2013, ice cream company OddFellows has launched over 500 eye-catchingly flavours, from Bacon, Egg ‘n’ Cheese to Chorizo Caramel Swirl.
Recent years has seen the company embrace brand collaborations, with the most recent being an ice cream collection with hip-hop legend Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
We caught up with OddFellows Co-Founder Mohan Kumar and the firm’s Creative Director, Chris DiVito, to find out more about how the team brought ODB into ice cream – and the other brands they feel could be a great fit for what they do.
Guys, it’s great to connect. For anyone new to OddFellows Ice Cream, what’s the origin story?
Mohan Kumar, Co-Owner, OddFellows Ice Cream Co: The inspiration was that myself and Sam Mason became fast friends. We used to hang out at a bar next to WD-50 on the Lower East Side; he was the pastry chef at WD-50 and I used to DJ at the bar. We became friends and when my wife was pregnant in 2011, Sam brough her over a savoury pretzel ice cream. She loved it and said we should open an ice cream shop.
We started thinking about how we’d do that and how we’d make it different, and we decided to make a go of it. We opened up a shop in Williamsburg in 2013 and were making flavours that no-one had ever made before. The first year we were open we did over 150 flavours, putting out a new flavour every day or two. Now we’ve grown to have five locations and have created well over 500 flavours.
Wow! And in the early days, what sort of flavours were you doing to stand out?
MK: Our opening menu featured cornbread ice cream. We were the first to do that. Miso cherry was one of our favourites from day one. We did peanut butter and jelly ice cream before anyone else. I can name 30 flavours that we did first that people have since copied!
The one flavour that got us the most acclaim in year one was chorizo caramel swirl. It was voted one of New York City’s best dishes. Chorizo was infused into the cream, and the caramel was made from that same fat. It was super savoury and very delicious.
Beautiful! So how do you come up with these kinds of unusual flavours?
Chris DiVito, Creative Director, OddFellows Ice Cream Co: A lot of things we do now is collaborations with brands like ODB or The Bodega Boys. We really think about their brand and how it fits into our world of weird ice cream flavours. We’ll try to figure out a way to make it fit with the brand’s aesthetic – and then it’s a lot of testing! A lot of combinations are pretty gross and don’t make it into our final ice creams, but some things turn out to be amazing. There’s a lot of trial and error to find out what’s good and what’s not.
You mention your recent collaboration with ODB; what did you begin in terms of translating the hip-hop legend into a series of ice cream flavours?
MK: When the ODB team approached us, I’m a huge Wu-Tang Clan fan and have listened to Dirty since the mid-Nineties, so you don’t say no to that kind of opportunity. On the flavour side, it was actually really easy. His aliases speak for themselves; they already sound like great ice cream flavours!
CD: Yes, there’s Peanut the Kidnapper, Joe Bananas… It was easy to bring those into our world. He’s also a very playful person too with his lyrics, so that was simple to bring into the world of ice cream.
What sorts of brands do you look to collaborate with? What’s a good fit for you guys?
CD: We’re OddFellows, so we like to do things that are a little odd, and collaborations that other people wouldn’t think about doing. Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a great example of that; it’s not a brand that you would expect to see in ice cream.
MK: There’s also plenty of mainstream ‘weird’ characters that we think would find a natural home with us. Look at SpongeBob SquarePants… There’s lots of brilliantly weird Nineties stuff that have a quirky edge that we think could make for a great OddFellows ice cream range.
The other side of this is that creatively, brand collaborations are really fun for us. Have you ever seen the movie A Christmas Story?
MK: Well we would love to do A Christmas Story ice cream collection. Or a collection based on Dazed and Confused. I’m probably dating myself with these ideas but the great thing is that all the younger guys who work with me, love pop culture from the Eighties and Nineties.
CD: Absolutely. We love music and we love movies. We want to collaborate with brands that we love. I’m dying to do a Scream ice cream, especially with the new movie on the way.
So that’s SpongeBob, A Christmas Story, Dazed and Confused and Scream that you’d like to launch ice cream collections for – let’s put it out there and let the universe work its magic! Now, there may be some brands out there that like the idea of doing an ice cream collaboration, but think their IP is a bit of a tough one to translate into this space… Do like those kinds of creative challenges, when there isn’t an ‘obvious fit’?
CD: Yes – give us a call, give us an hour and we’ll come up with 15 or so ideas!
MK: It might be a little longer than an hour because it takes a little longer than that to finish a few bottles of wine! We tackle the creative process the same way that a lot of people do – smoke a little joint, drink a little wine and let the good ideas flow!
And Chris, what fuels creativity for you?
Wine and weed; there’s the headline sorted! Guys, this has been fun. Now before I let you go, if there’s brands out there that love what you’re doing and would want to explore a collaboration, how can they reach out?
MK: Reach out on our socials, or they can drop Chris an email at email@example.com.
Good stuff guys. As soon as I’m next in New York I’m dropping by because the flavours sound amazing – thanks for taking time out for this and we’ll hopefully catch up again soon.
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