Seasonal, market-driven chef Shiho Yoshikawa baked at Tartine Bakery and The Slanted Door in San Francisco, which allowed her to build a substantial knowledge base before opening Sweet Rose Creamery with Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan in Santa Monica’s Brentwood Country Mart. The Nagoya native attended the California College of the Arts in the Bay Area and applies that visual flair to her ice cream and complementary cones, toppings, cookies and shakes. We joined Yoshikawa on a September 12 tour of the Santa Monica Farmers Market, and she shared insights about her background and approach.
At what point did you know you would work with ice cream for a living?
I was a baker. I made bread, but my husband is from Hawaii, and we were looking at doing a bakery, but over there is extremely expensive to ship everything. No wheat grows there, so we were like, “How about we do ice cream?” That was in the works. I was doing research, and back then they shut down the smaller dairy farms, so I was like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Then I came down to help Zoe open Huckleberry. They were like, “Why don’t you move to L.A.?” I was like, “Okay.” That’s kind of how it happened.
What was the first batch of ice cream you ever made, and how did it turn out?
I think the first, first, first ice cream that I ever made was of course vanilla. You can’t wrong. That’s my go-to. It will be, always. Vanilla, and after that, I made Earl Grey, because I love Earl Grey tea. After that, sorbet. I think I did lime buttermilk sorbet.
How did that first vanilla turn out?
It was good, but that first time, I was so careful, so it turned out really beautifully. The second time, I thought, “Okay, I can do this.”
What’s that collaboration like [with Josh and Zoe]?
Actually, they kind of leave me be. At the beginning, Josh had a little bit more what they wanted to see kind of things, but they basically let me make whatever, which is really nice. At the same time, Zoe and I were friends before, and I think she knows where I come from. She feels a little bit more safe about letting me go crazy.
Do you find guests that come into the shop are more educated about ingredients than in the beginning?
Yeah, I think so. They try more things, because before, at the beginning, I was kind of broken hearted, because I would make things and nobody would try…Sapote, for one. Jujube, for one. Dragon fruit. But if you look at the color, it’s kind of fun.
You said even black sesame was a hard sell.
Yeah, at the beginning, nobody bought it.
What does a flavor have to be for you to make it at Sweet Rose?
Anything inspired by the market, basically. I just get whatever I like. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and sometimes it’s fantastic. Sometimes you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know it was going to happen this way.”
Why don’t you use a dairy starter for your ice cream?
We do everything the homemade way, which is get milk and cream and egg yolks. Custard base. And we pasteurize it ourselves. In California there’s a law. If you’re going to make your own base, you have to have a pasteurizer’s license and pasteurizer and clean room. I believe if you do that, you can control your sugar and control your flavors. If you only have one type of base, you’re stuck with the same amount of sugar, and if you add a lot of sugar into that then you have overly sweet ice cream, or sometimes the flavor doesn’t come through as much.