There’s something about ‘out-there’/unique food and drink that captivates a lot of us, and we’ve seen global trends take social media by storm in recent years.
San Francisco chef Ali Hooke’s Tinned Fish Date Night – which is exactly what it sounds like – is a prime example. It was a TikTok sensation at the tail end of 2022.
Rainbow foods (such as bagels, pizza, sushi and burgers) crop up left, right and centre on menus now and then too, while people have obsessed over things like overnight oats and iced coffee since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were put in place.
I’m guilty of the latter.
My point? The opportunities are endless when it comes to getting creative in the kitchen (and food and drink industry as a whole). And, should you be the owner of a hospitality business, making your menu standout is sure to benefit you.
This is something that Sheila Gray caught onto in the early stages of running Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour, which opened its doors in July 2010.
Red Bull, Barbie or cornflake milk ice cream, anyone?
Located on the town’s High Street, Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour has cemented itself as a go-to destination in Moray.
The award-winning business sells home bakes, cakes, sundaes, barista coffees, sorbets and more.
However, it’s (of course) the ice cream that draws in the biggest crowds as Sheila thrives off of making both traditional and unique flavours.
They include Battenberg, stroopwafel, Red Bull, haggis, cornflake milk, buttery and salted caramel, and pancake and maple syrup.
Sheila even made a flavour to celebrate the release of the 2023 film Barbie.
“Inspiration comes from so many routes,” says the 63-year-old. “[This includes] customers, staff, family, cookery programmes and chefs.
“We have 26 [in our] flavour cabinet and our best-seller is Granny Annie’s Honeycomb, which is named after my mother as she showed me how to make the honeycomb.
“All the additions to our ice creams (for example, honeycomb, cookie dough, sticky toffee sponge, chocolate brownies, and so on) are made from scratch on-site in our kitchen.”
The business’ ice cream (including dairy-free options), sorbet and ice cream cakes are made on-site by Sheila, as well, which takes roughly 30 to 60 hours per week.
She makes anything from 200 to 500 litres of ice cream and sorbet weekly.
The inside scoop on how Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour came to be
Prior to opening Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour, Sheila had little idea of what type of food-related venture she wanted to start.
“I wanted to work in the food industry,” says the entrepreneur, who attended Milnes High School and RGU, gaining a BSc in Home Economics.
“My late father was a farmer and my mother is a fantastic cook and baker and did cake decorating as a hobby, so food production through to the finished product was in my upbringing and in my heart.”
Sheila worked for Aberdeen’s Grampian Country Chickens for more than 21 years, starting out in the quality control department before progressing to group technical director.
She added: “I always thought I would have my own business and knew it had to be food-related, but wasn’t sure which area.
“Still not knowing what I wanted to do, I viewed this small shop in Fochabers which was an antique shop at the time.
“It was whilst viewing the shop I decided in my head that it could make a good ice cream shop.
“During [the] second viewing, the owner said it had been an ice cream shop previously, so I eventually managed to purchase the building in 2010 and really the rest is history!”
Innovative ice cream maker continues to ‘absolutely love’ role at Moray shop
The business owner has witnessed the parlour’s success rise first-hand ever since. And Sheila adores her role just as much as she did in the early stages.
There are seven to nine members of staff – which Sheila refers to as ‘Pinkies’ – at Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour during the quieter months. In the summer, this increases to 12.
She says: “I absolutely love making ice cream and if you enjoy what you are doing, it’s not really work. I love creating new flavours and also the traditional favourites.”
Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour has won many accolades over the years, including best chocolate ice cream at the National Ice Cream Championships (on a few occasions).
Sheila continued: “We have so many loyal and regular customers who travel from near and far. We get a lot of new customers each year who can be holidaymakers or just people passing through Fochabers.
“My fantastic team of Pinkies are never sure what is next for the scooping cabinet. I am always looking for innovative ideas and a recent trip to Italy certainly stirred up some new ideas for this year. You just can’t stand still.
“I hope our shop has helped make Moray and Fochabers a destination stop along with so many other fantastic businesses in the village and region.”