Marcus Purtzki is the namesake behind Made By Marcus ice-cream, which can be found at finer food shops and markets around the city, as well as at his new signature “microcreamery” on 17th Avenue S.W.. Here, Purtzki chats about how he came to the ice-cream game, the one flavour Calgarians can’t seem to get enough of, and why the craft-product craze is legit.
When did you start making ice cream?
“I started making macarons around four years ago when I first moved here [from Vancouver], and it was around three years ago when I started making ice cream. It was basically me for a year and a half and then there was one employee and then two and now we have five in the back of the house.”
Where did the idea to make ice cream come from?
“Well, for the macarons we brought in whole eggs. We separated the whites for the meringues to use in the macarons and then we’d have the yolks left over and we always had milk around, so we bought a small gelato machine to make ice cream to use up the yolks. We sold it through Janice Beaton, where I was working at the time; we put a small little freezer in there. I was doing jams and jellies for her so we had jars left over from that, so without really putting a lot of expense and thought into it, we put the ice cream in the jars with this craft-brown label. And things grew from there. We still do a lot of macarons, but ice cream’s a lot bigger beast now.”
The accidental artisan ice-cream maker.
In the four years you’ve been in the ice cream game, what flavour is the runaway hit?
“The biggest seller is the lemon-curd-blueberry. It’s the first flavour that we did and a lot of people just gravitate to that flavour. I think it just sounds a bit different and a bit homey, like something associated with baking, with that natural, homemade feel to it. That’s our best seller and we’ve been doing it for ages.”
Have you had any flavour fails?
“So many! We’ve had some that are great flavours but they’ve had consistency problems, like a brown-butter ice cream – it smells delicious, tastes delicious, but it’s very finicky. Because we make all our flavours in house, sometimes we fluke out,and we make a great flavour and then I’ll spend six months trying to duplicate that flavour and I just can’t quite get it. It makes the job a bit harder, because we are toasting coconut, we’re juicing things and pureeing things, so there’s a lot more variables. There have been a couple that we’ve just had to throw out, like we couldn’t serve them to the public. Rosemary ice cream is great if it’s balanced properly, but if you take it too far it’s bitter, it tastes like Douglas Fir.”
What you’re doing with ice cream is similar to what’s happening right now in craft brewing. Why are people gravitating to these kinds of craft products?
“It’s something that people associate with quality, that small-batch approach. Something you can’t get everywhere. A lot of microbreweries don’t sell to every liquor store, so there’s something unique about the product. It’s almost like you’re supporting a community and you’re part of something rather than buying a mass-market product. There’s a storyline, something unique and fun when you go out and talk about it.”