Ice cream is, in a word, wonderful. It’s probably not the world’s most perfect food — calories and ice cream headaches and lactose intolerance, to start — but if you had to make a top ten list, it’d probably make the cut. If you could eat it all day, you probably would. And if you could get paid for it… well, jobs like that don’t exist.
Wait: they do!
Well, at least one person has a job that requires him to eat ice cream all day long. That guy is John Harrison, Professional Ice Cream Taster.
Harrison works for Dreyer’s, a Nestle-owned ice cream company headquartered in Oakland, California. Each day, starting at 7:30 A.M per the Los Angeles Times, he arrives at work and gets out his spoon. Then he begins tasting. He’ll typically sample approximately twenty flavors each day, with each flavor hitting his mouth three times — one sample from the start of the batch, one from the middle, and one from the end. He’s checking for a “consistency, texture, and flavor,” the Times noted, and the process to do so is surprisingly detailed, as he told Cooking Light magazine:
I taste with my eyes initially, so if it doesn’t look appetizing, forget the rest of it. Then I let the ice cream temper about 10 to 12 degrees to maximize the flavor and get the full top note, bouquet, and aroma, and to avoid what the young people call brain freeze. For tasting, I use a gold-plated spoon because wood and plastic have a slight resin aftertaste, and I need to avoid anything that could clog my taste buds. I swirl the ice cream around in my mouth to coat all the taste receptacles, and then I spit it out.
If the master says the ice cream isn’t up to his standards? Dreyer’s donates the batch to local food banks. In 1998, per the Los Angeles Times, that was the fate for 100,000 gallons of ice cream — a huge amount, it seems, but only about a quarter of a percent of Dreyer’s 40 million gallon output that year. (You can see a low-resolution of Harrison with his special gold-plated spoon here.)
And sorry, you aren’t likely to find similar employment. Harrison has experience that few are likely to match. While almost all of us grew up eating ice cream, Harrison outshines most all of us. His great-grandfather owned an ice cream parlor in the late 1800s. His grandfather ran Tennessee’s first dairy co-op. And his father owned an ice cream ingredient supplier in Georgia. His well-trained taste buds come from an immersive ice cream-focused childhood.
While Harrison does have a few assistants, Dreyer’s believes Harrison’s taste buds are special. Harrison, of course, protects them as well as anyone can — as he told the Columbus Dispatch, he eschews spicy food, peppers, and onions, and he neither drinks alcohol nor smokes. Nevertheless, in 1998, the company made sure it was protected in case anything went wrong. Dreyer’s insures Harrison’s taste buds for $1 million.
From the Archives: Ice Scream: Why we get ice cream headaches.
Related: Gold-plated spoons, to maximize your ice cream tasting experiences.