Jeni isn't always dreaming up new ice creams. Last night at Heirloom, the great restaurant in the Wexner Center for the Arts, she was on hand to present Snowville Creamery's Warren Taylor with Slow Food Columbus' inaugural Snailblazer Award.
The award, says Slow Food Columbus, "is designed to draw the public's attention to an individual or organization within the community whose dedication to sustainability and to transforming the food system captures the spirit of Slow Food."
Below is Jeni's presentation speech, which Jeni wrote yesterday morning. The speech sums up why we continue to work hand in hand with Snowville to make all of our ice creams and frozen yogurts with their grass-grazed cream.
"When they write the history of the de-industrialization of the food system, Warren Taylor will be in the first sentence. Warren’s passion, his energy, is limitless. Everyone who knows him knows that. He is an evangelist and an advocate for all things good, clean and fair.
"When I first started making ice cream more than 15 years ago, I thought it would be easy to source great tasting milk and to work directly with the producers who brought it into existence. But, that was not to be the case. Not for many years.
"I’ve seen a few small creameries come and go and worked with them to buy our cream, hoping they would stay in business. But the dairy business is not for the weak of heart. It’s expensive to start, and to run. And, you’ve got to sell a lot of milk to make it work. And you are up against enormous odds. The dairy system is built around great efficiencies. It makes it almost impossible for a small creamery to get a foot in (to speak nothing of the lobbyists).
"There is no way to start small like I did with a little ice cream machine in tiny stand in the north market. You can’t just start a creamery. In dairy, you have to go all in. And that’s what Warren and Victoria did when they opened Snowville—they put it all on the line. Their whole life’s savings, and all their time. I don’t know when, or if, Warren sleeps. I don’t think he needs it.
"I met Warren in the summer of '07. I was about two weeks from having my first child, Greta. I had been talking to some dairy scientists at O.S.U. about my ideas to use cultures to thicken our ice cream and they directed me to Warren Taylor, who is a dairy scientist by training. I reached out to him, and he invited me down. When I got there, he showed me the shell of the building that was to become Snowville Creamery. And we went to his home and ate Victoria’s amazing chilled carrot soup and drank 3,000-year-old beers.
"Then, he pulled some giant mason jars filled with white goop off the top of his refrigerator and offered me a taste. He’d already been using cultures to thicken cream, and these were the results of his experimenting. But, it was sitting at room temperature in the heat of the summer, he had three of them, I was 10 months pregnant and, frankly, about to loose my lunch at the thought of tasting the warm white gels of varying viscosities that he dipped out of those jars. But I did because Warren was so excited about them. They were completely flavorless, which was very promising.
"During that visit, I also had the first taste of raw milk since I was a little girl. And at that moment, I was hooked. Come hell or high water, I wanted to work with Warren. And by and by, the opened, and we made it work, and continue to make it work to this day.
"Our ice creams are so good because the foundation upon which they are built and we owe that all to Warren and Victoria and their dairy farmers. There is not dairy in the country like Snowville. And it’s because of Warren’s passion, his commitment and expertise.
"I think this story sums Warren up best. When we all went to Turin, Italy as delegates of the United States from Slow Food Columbus in 2010 to be a part of Terra Madre, each of us was overwhelmed at the place, the people, the atmosphere. There were 6,000 people from around the world all converging in this enormous convention hall. It was like a meeting of the United Federation of Planets, we all had head phones tuned into translators.
"It was awe-inspiring for us all, but none more than Warren. He was like a 10-year-old at a Jedi convention. He gave T-shirts to everyone he saw, including the great chef Morimoto when he and I sat next to him at lunch one day at Eataly.
"By the end of that event, I still don’t know how, but I swear, there were 2000 people in that convention hall wearing Snowville T-shirts! I have no idea how he fit them all in his bag, or how he managed to make that many friends, but that’s the magic of Warren. He connects and collaborates and inspires everywhere he goes, which is why I am so honored to present Slow Food Columbus’s inaugural Snailblazer award to my friend and co-conspirator, Warren Taylor."