Chef Chad Townsend turns his talents to Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream
Summer: It’s that time of year you recall the smooth creaminess of a scoop of rich chocolate ice cream before it drips down a cone on a hot day.
Locally made Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream is so delicious it may actually surpass those memories. Up until now, the only places you could get it was through a CSA and on occasional Saturdays at select farmers markets.
This will soon change.
By June, proprietors Chad Townsend and his wife, Lauren, hope to open the processing facility of Millie’s Ice Cream in North Point Breeze, where they’ll pasteurize dairy and eggs for ice cream production on a grander scale than what they’ve been making in their Wilkinsburg home — the day before they drop off CSA deliveries twice a month.
Since last summer, the Townsends have been making ice cream for home delivery for between 50 and 100 Allegheny County subscribers. The production facility will allow them to distribute to restaurants and markets as well as to move on to phase two, the opening of a scoop shop that’s a building-in-progress on Bryant Street in Highland Park. They’re hoping to open within the year.
In February 2014, Mr. Townsend had taken over as executive chef of Salt of the Earth restaurant in Garfield after its founder, Kevin Sousa, departed to focus on his new restaurant in Braddock. At the time Mr. Townsend had been making what he called “crazy good ice cream” for years, and last July he turned his attention to making homemade ice cream full time.
So what prompts one of the city’s most up-and-coming chefs to switch gears from a dream of opening his own restaurant to focus on ice cream?
First, he saw the need for locally made ice cream that incorporates seasonal ingredients.
“Pittsburgh’s food scene is burgeoning,” reads the Millie’s Homemade website. “Why wasn’t anyone paying attention to ice cream?”
Second, it brings his wife into the work. Ms. Townsend, whom he met years ago when he was a young cook at Eleven in the Strip District, recently quit her corporate job to focus on Millie’s. And third, it parallels the restaurant work that he so enjoys.
“The exciting thing about working in a restaurant is discovering new, delicious ingredients,” he said. “Maybe you’ve found the lady who brings you fantastic eggs. Or maybe there’s the guy who grows wonderful peaches. That same excitement for ingredients that I’ve had in restaurants translates to ice cream.”
With a name inspired by Mr. Townsend’s grandmother, Millie’s is unusual in that there are no stabilizers such as xanthan gum, emulsifiers to keep ice cream smooth or artificial flavorings — just natural ingredients.