Entrepreneur with a sweet tooth
One of the newest vendors at the Thursday Night Market is Oliver Wong, a Chico High alumnus who recently returned to his hometown to pursue a career in the food industry. He spent a year at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and a semester at Columbia University in New York City before deciding a liberal-arts degree and the added stress and expenses of college wouldn’t help him with his business ideas. This summer, Wong debuted Spoons, which he describes as a “unique and artful take on ice cream.” His customers will have to wait to purchase his ice cream, since he’s currently waiting to obtain a dairy manufacturing license. In the meantime, he’s selling sorbet and non-dairy “ices.”
What’s it like being an entrepreneur?
A lot of work, a lot of stress. You really have to want it because there are always things coming up; road blocks, red tape that you have to fight through. I had no idea I would have to buy this [complicated and expensive] machinery just to have a commercial-grade ice cream machine.
Why ice cream?
I knew that Chico didn’t have a specialty gourmet ice cream. I always liked going to those places in the Bay Area, and when I was thinking what kind of a food place I was interested in, I came back to comfort food like pot pies, mac ’n’ cheese, ice cream.
How is your ice cream different?
My ice cream is almost 100 percent organic. The dairy I’m using is organic, the eggs, and I’m buying my ingredients from local sources when I can. Not all of the ingredients are organic, like vanilla is through the roof because it’s from other countries so it’s so expensive. Then I’m making specialty flavors and the idea is they’re all things you wouldn’t be able to get from any other places in Chico. I have Chico themed flavors, like I’m using Chico Chai.
And there are no low-fat or sugar-free options?
It’s my opinion that desserts are a treat, not a meal. It should be a small, really intense, really good flavored scoop. You shouldn’t be eating a whole bowl of ice cream, you should just have a scoop, and as long as you’re eating it as a treat, you’ll be fine.
How do you envision Spoons growing?
Eventually I’d like it to be more than ice cream, with the comfort food idea, but in the short term the first thing is to get the kitchen approved for ice cream, and the next thing might be ice cream sandwiches or sundaes.