Learning about the Gelare story with Farid Torabi

I have such fond memories of Gelare. Especially during uni days when it made for such an affordable Tuesday night catch up. I mean half price waffles makes it very hard to say no! And I’d say my go to flavours were the zesty and tropical passionfruit sorbet and the uber creamy vanilla bean. It was always an indulgent and delicious night out.

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Now there are still plenty of Gelare stores dotted around the WA metropolitan area, with Mt Lawley being my handy local, and I had the chance recently to ask a few questions of Farid Torabi, who is the creator of the Geláre chain.

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Tell us the story of how Geláre got started in WA?

After years of living and working in the US as a young newly married Senior Engineer, in early 1985, I moved to Australia to live in Melbourne. A week after I arrived in Melbourne, I decided to visit the West and came to Perth. I fell in love with the place and 30 years later, I am still here. I found a few jobs in engineering, but they were not as challenging as the ones I held in the US. So, less than a year later after the birth of our first child, I decided to move back to the US. It was at that time that by chance I ran into an American friend who was an ice cream connoisseur. He was disappointed with the lack of availability of a good ice cream in Perth and suggested for us to start a high quality ice cream business together with him as a silent partner. After a few sleepless nights, hours of soul searching, discussions with my wife and considering our priorities, I decided to take up the friend’s offer. After months of preparation and running around I opened an ice cream cafe in Fremantle and named it Geláre, and the rest is history.

What does the word ‘Geláre’ actually mean?

Geláre in Italian means ‘to freeze or to congeal’. It is different to Gelato, which refers to ice cream in Italian.

What’s proven to be the most popular menu item over the years?

As far as Geláre Cafe menu, our freshly baked waffles are legendary. I dare say that they are popular to the point that people know our shops as ‘Waffle shops.’ The waffles are supported by our ice cream and coffee selections. We also use our ice cream and sorbets to create various cold drinks and smoothies.

What do you think makes Geláre different to other ice cream stores out there?

Geláre combines the best qualities of Italian ice cream with traditional homemade ice cream. It is made the old fashion way and mimics the full-bodied ice cream made with the hand cranked wooden churns. This is achieved by allowing no air into our ice cream while being manufactured. Most other ice creams are fluffed with air to as much as 80%. Geláre is the only ice cream that contains no air (over-run). It is a difference that you can see, feel and taste. Furthermore, volume for volume, 1 litre of Geláre ice cream weighs more than one litre of any other ice cream, as a result of no air in our ice cream. Unfortunately ice cream is usually sold by volume, and most consumers do their price comparison on that basis. To do the proper price comparison for different ice creams, aside from the ingredients, it is best to compare them by weight. After all air is free and one should not pay for it in their ice cream.

Have you noticed a big change in the Perth food scene since you moved here?

The change has been immense. I recall back in the 80’s, restaurants were mostly in CBD and some in Fremantle. The choice and variety were limited and international cuisine was very rare. Nowadays, you can find restaurants in most suburbs, choice, variety and quality is as good as anywhere else in the world. What is more striking is the level of consumer sophistication and awareness of quality and ingredients. Today’s consumer not only demands quality, they are also mindful of the ingredients and what goes into the food they eat. That was not the case even five years ago. I find this very encouraging as it challenges us to improve our products, knowing that the customers appreciate the effort.

As you’ve travelled the world, what has been your favourite ice-cream memory?

I have visited Sigep which is a trade show dedicated to artisan ice cream in Italy several times. I find some of the ice cream creations and presentations by the European chefs at the show amazing. During one of my visits one of the chefs created the face of a dog on an ice cream and handed it to me. Within a few seconds I was the centre of the attention, with visitors taking pictures and asking me in different languages about the ice cream and how it was made. While I was trying to explain to them that a chef made it, a TV station crew started filming it as well. I found that amusing. But the most interesting memory amongst my wife and friends during our travels is the countless times that I have asked the cafe owners to allow me to make my own coffee. I have done this in Canada, US, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Italy of all places. I have heard a lot of No’s, but one yes is all I need and I’ve had several of them too. In Canada, the owner was so impressed, he asked me to make a few more for his customers as well.

Are there any options at the moment for vegan or dairy intolerant customers?

I am sure there are some out there and Vegans find them a lot faster than non-vegans. Over a year ago, Geláre introduced a range of organic, vegan ice cream using organic coconut milk as its base.  To our amazement, it did far better than we expected. Unfortunately, it is not easy to make a lot of vegan ice cream flavours that mimic the taste of the real ice cream. However, not shying away from the challenge, for the past 12 months we have been working to create a Salty Caramel Vegan ice cream. It has not been easy, slowly but surely we are getting there. Stay tuned.

How do you decide when to introduce a new ice-cream flavour? Are there any new ice-cream flavours on the horizon?

In my travels I am always on the look out for new trends and ideas for Geláre as a whole. Ice cream flavours are only a part of it. We receive a lot of requests for new flavours from our customers, new trends or simply trying a unique flavour in a dessert that gives us the idea about a new flavour. However, it is one thing to think of a flavour, it is another to find the proper flavours to create it. We are currently working on several versions of licorice ice cream.   It is one thing to create a flavour – giving it the proper name is another. One should not underestimate the marketing power of the name given to an ice cream flavour.

What do you love about being a part of the food industry here in WA?

You become a part of the community. Being a concept born and bred in WA, I find that at times that people tend to take ownership of it when discussing it with friends in other parts of the World. WA is home for Geláre.

What is your favourite flavour?

It depends on my mood. But mostly I like our latest flavour, Peanut Butter Cup.

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I really enjoyed the chance to hear from Farid, such a passionate fellow, who clearly loves what he does and also to learn a little more about Geláre. It’s been a regular feature of the Perth foodie landscape for well over a decade now and it continues to offer delicious waffles and a vast range of ice creams that continues to vary and impress.

Queue the warm weather and call in for a cone or cup, or hey hey waffles are just perfect for chilly weather. Talk about all year round crowd pleasers.

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Categories: Family, Ice Cream, Interview, Product, Reviews, Something Sweet

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