Every morning at 6am Carly comes into their laboratory, prepares a large vat of crème anglaise, and loads batches into a machine which churns and freezes. All the while she adds fruit purees she has prepared, cookies she has made and produce she has sourced from around WA. She’s a Pharmacist by background, which has been useful in her role as the ‘architect' for their flavours. Everything which can be made from scratch, has been made from scratch, and she weighs out ingredients, melts and crushes in a blender, and prepares flavours until just before 12pm when the unassuming little gelato store opens for trade.
Carly is one half of the couple behind Chicho, Northbridge’s first artisan gelato store. Carly and her husband Chez champion a local, produce driven and constantly in-motion approach to traditional gelato.
What’s the Difference Between Gelato and Ice-cream?
When I asked Chez what the difference was between gelato and ice cream, he wanted to explain the difference not only between the two, but between the bulk of the gelato Perth had seen before, and their own approach.
In short, gelato is churned slower and warmer than ice-cream, and with a lower cream content. The result is that gelato has less air than ice cream, so a scoop of gelato will weigh more than a scoop of ice cream. It is also easier to discern complex flavours in gelato, as it is not so cold as to shock the tongue.
New Wave Gelato
The differences between ‘Commercial Gelato' and the 'New Wave Gelato' which Chez and Carly make at Chicho are just as significant: “You can buy ‘gelato flavour pastes and semi-finished products’, where you just read the recipe and throw it all in.” Says Chez, “But I think the purer you can make it, the better”. Alongside their commitment to make everything they can from whole, local ingredients, Chez and Carly do not add colour or preservatives to their gelato. The practice necessitates storing their gelato in traditional stainless steel tubs, which do not allow either the staff or customer to see their gelato until it is being scooped. Chez and his staff navigate these tubs entirely by memory, learning the placement of their ever changing flavours each night. That their gelato, usually a very visual product, cannot be seen from the street level, they combat using their social media presence and the aesthetic of the store.
Chez and Carly have stuck to their guns and continue to pursue the best product they can produce, and this distinction has resonated with their customers, “We were worried about people not getting it, not seeing the product was a bold move, which nobody else has done in Perth. Even in italy it is rare to find the pozzetti except in the north.” But their approach has resonated with the people in Perth, and they’re one of few ice-cream places which can claim to have regulars.
“The feedback we get is that our product is quite light, it doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed because there’s a realness to it” Says Chez.
Constantly Changing Flavours
The new wave gelato at Chicho is in constant flux and draws inspiration from seasonal produce and from collaborations with local Chefs. “During the chef collabs a chef tells us what flavours they want, and we provide the skill set.” Says Carly. “Everyone who’s done it so far has really enjoyed it”
When I mentioned to Carly that, for all my love of what they were doing, I was really a die hard vanilla fan, she was quick to mention that they were in no way above the staples, “you’ve got to make sure that your vanilla is great. If your vanilla isn’t right, nothing is going to be right.”
"There are a few obligatory flavours like vanilla and chocolate, but we always want to keep it fresh and new.” Says Carly, "some of the flavours we started with are still there, we’ll never get rid of the malted milk cornflake, we can’t take it off. Popcorn too. So many people come in for it.”
The spark of inspiration which became Chicho came to Chez as the couple were living in East London, Chez was working a corporate job and Carly as a pharmacist. “The East London food scene has gone crazy over the last five years with owner-operators, young entrepreneurs, and Chefs coming over from Europe for the better economic conditions…We were living and breathing the food scene every day and I was pretty despondent in a corporate position. We decided that food, being our passion, could be an avenue for a brand, and a business idea”
The couple had always intended to come back home to Perth, and decided to come home via Italy and the Americas. Chez had found out about a gelato course in Bologna and thought the worst which could come of it was a new education for himself and Carly. The course resonated with the couple, and encouraged them to continue their travels "collecting ideas along the way”
Carly and Chez came home to Perth after six months of travels. Setting up a commercial kitchen in their garage and bringing their product to farmers markets around Perth in a gelato cart. They named their business Chicho after the term "eh ciccio!”, an Italian term of endearment meaning ‘Cheeky Kid’. The couple slowly dialed their jobs back as they spent more and more time on their gelato business and in January of 2016 established their William Street store.
When I asked what was next for Chicho, and for Carly and Chez, they laughed and replied “A holiday. Ask us after that.” They had mentioned previously that a semblance of work-life balance was the next mountain for the couple to summit.
“If you’re here 24/7, it’s easy to lose passion for what you’re doing. The first two years in any business are always a challenge, but we’re trying to keep people on long term so we can challenge them and bring out the best in them"
They are intent on holding everything they do to their own high standards, and although they mention plans for pop-up ventures and expansions, they won’t do so until they can be certain that they can continue using the best ingredients and practices.
Chicho are open at 180 William Street, from 12-10pm Sun-Wed and 12-11pm Thurs-Sat. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram