It doesn’t take Ben Ungermann long to come up with an idea for a uniquely South African ice cream flavour.
“I’d like a savoury ice cream using biltong. It’s not that outlandish an idea,” Ungermann says.
It is likely to come across as wacky, but the 2017 MasterChef Australia runner-up is all about coming up with unique ice cream flavours.
It is one of the reasons he is widely regarded as the “ice cream king”.
“At the ice cream parlour I opened after MasterChef Australia, we do play with flavours - not all of them work out and sometimes it’s hard to get the right ratio to get things set,” says Ungermann.
“We have lots of ideas and a lot of it is trial and error. But it is magical when we get the perfect balance of flavours.”
The 32-year-old will have the opportunity to create some outrageous ice cream flavours using South African ingredients when he arrives in two weeks’ time.
The former runway model will be in the country for a nationwide series of three different master classes at Capsicum Culinary Studio campuses in Pretoria, Johannesburg , Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Durban.
He will host three classes, including a dessert master class which will include some of his famous desserts, including his much-loved ice cream.
Soon after his stint on MasterChef, he opened his own ice cream parlour with his brother Danny, called the Ungermann Brothers, in his hometown of Ipswich in Australia.
The store, which has become one of the most renowned ice cream parlours in the world, offers customers unusual and delicious flavoured ice creams such as roast garlic scoop; strawberry balsamic; chocolate mandarin with candied zest; matcha white chocolate; maple pecan bacon; lavender and honeycomb; and cardamom and coffee, as well as peanut butter.
Ungermann says he uses no stabilisers or preservatives in his ice cream.
“We present gourmet, out-of-the-box flavours to the public. Danny and I are both parents and we believe when you are feeding the people you care about, you use the best possible ingredients at your disposal. It has never been about making a quick buck but rather about giving people quality.
“My favourite flavours are my organic carrot cake, salted caramel bacon and pecan, and the cardamom and coffee.”
While Ungermann has built a reputation for being one of the best ice cream makers in the world, he admits that he had never made a dessert in his life before he entered the culinary competition in 2017.
“At the start of MasterChef, we were advised to work on our weaknesses and as a savoury cook, I started working really hard on desserts.
"I discovered a love of sweet things, particularly ice cream, and I was nurtured by the judges to really develop this further throughout the competition.
“(Co-host) George Calombaris said to me that I had to do something with it. My dream has always been to open a Dutch café because of my Dutch heritage, but I realised I had to do something with this.
"I was hounded by fans about the ice cream so I had to do this venture first.”
Ungermann says that being on MasterChef was the single hardest thing he has done in his life.
“I can’t explain the amount of pressure, because there is nothing you can liken it to. You cook and film for up to 12 hours a day and then go back to the house to study. The filming takes about seven months, you are away from family and kept separate from the outside world.
“You either sink or you grow. Fortunately for me, it was the latter and that made me more confident.”
Now that he is heading to South Africa, Ungermann says he is looking forward to enjoying the local cuisine.
“When I was last in the country, I was lucky enough to go on safari and I got to try venison. I am looking forward to having shisa nyama, different types of biltong and droëwors (it has become one of my favourite foods) and melktert.”
He also says he would be keen on collaborating with South African chef Chantel Dartnall.
“I wasn’t able to eat at a lot of South African restaurants during my first visit. But I went to Restaurant Mosaic to meet Dartnall, who has been named one of the world’s best chefs. Her food was extraordinary.
“The food industry is quite a male-dominated one. It can often be a macho atmosphere in the kitchen. Women need to be a bigger part of the industry. So it would be an honour to work with her.”