At first glance, the bright Euro-modern interior of Delikat Gelato appears to be an ice cream shop. There are tables and chairs, a corner with oversized stuffed animals for children to play with, and a display case featuring a changing selection of 20-odd flavours.
But there is also a wall with tubs of PreGel base (a precursor for ice cream) on display and, from the seating area, one can peer into the room where ice cream is made by a team of dedicated workers. That's because this isn't a mom-and-pop artisanal ice cream shop. Sure, it sells ice cream, but it does more.
"This shop is basically a showroom," says Khim Chhean, the Kofi Group's business development director, who has been running the shop behind the scenes since it opened to the public late last month.
The Kofi Group, which for seven years has been supplying coffee beans and machines to many of the well-known coffee shops in town, is attempting to apply that distribution model to ice cream shops - selling PreGel base and ice cream-making machines.
But, she says, "it's not the same", because, with coffee, Kofi didn't have to introduce the concept of a coffee shop. "Without a flagship [ice cream] store, people would not know what gelato is," she says.
"Once you understand the difference between gelato and ice cream, it's easy [for the model to succeed]," she says, citing statistical differences in fat and sugar content. (Gelato is supposedly healthier because it has less sugar and fat.)
Indeed, while gelato is merely the Italian word for ice cream, it has come to imply a marketed Italian style of manufacture that is geared more towards same-day consumption than storage.
After touring Italy two years ago and visiting the headquarters of the Italian ice cream ingredient manufacturer PreGel in Reggio Emilia, Chhean says the group began considering the option of becoming distributors for the brand - which is available in dozens of countries in every inhabited continent.
However, she says, observing the storied culture of ice cream-making in several Italian cities "wasn't as convincing" to sealing the deal as was seeing the success of gelato-branded ice cream shops in other Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
PreGel, essentially a "base" for making ice cream, saves an ice-cream maker both time and labour - and from needing to know the closely guarded recipes and methods of a gelatiAre artigianale, an artisanal ice cream maker.
Indeed, at Delikat a PreGel "chef" came to hold a several-day training session and, presto-pronto, it became an ice cream - excuse me - a gelato shop.
The ease of making ice cream with PreGel has its advantages, and Chhean says the aim of Delikat is for others who wish to try their hand at a gelato shop to see how successful the model can be.
"We would assist with everything: training, supplying the PreGel, the machines and the innovation of whatever flavour you can think of," she says.
Even Chhean - along with one of her chefs - has been experimenting and designing new flavours every day, such as Khmer sticky rice-flavoured ice cream, durian and purple yam.
Eagerly handing a reporter sample spoonfuls of the day's flavours, Chhean smiles widely. "Try the donut! Have you had white-coffee flavour?"
Source: Phnom Penh Post