As Fro-Yo shops and other health-conscious confectioners pop up around the Midwest, one man is bent on producing a homestyle custard that boasts twice the butterfat and eggs as his ice-cream peers. Rich flavors like sea salt caramel and butter mint, all without the gobs of brownie or candy sediments like many other ice creams, make for a refreshing reprieve on a steamy Iowa summer night. The man behind David’s Famous Gourmet Frozen Custard, David Gott, shared his story with Little Village.
I’m curious about the distinction between ice cream and frozen custard. What makes frozen custard frozen custard? I’d like to hear that from the Custard King.
Zero to 1.39 percent egg yolk solids, and you’ve got ice cream, 1.4 percent and up and you’re talking frozen custard. Not all ice cream is frozen custard, but all frozen custard is ice cream.
You started making David’s Famous once you retired from a career in finance. Have you always had culinary interests?
I never retired! Retired means you quit being productive and that’s not the case with me. But yes, I could always boil water with the best of them. When I was twelve I experimented in the kitchen and produced my first cherry pie, and everyone in my family pretended it was good. But in addition to David’s, I’m a griller and a smoker. I’d like to think I’m not your typical knuckle-dragger at the grill. I smoked a Boston Butt and some Salmon for some of our digital people and they just thought it was the best. With David’s Famous Frozen Custard, it’s a combination of my grandmother’s recipe and a recipe from a church cookbook.
So it runs in the family?
I’m a good cook because my grandmother was a good cook. I grew up here in Iowa, and on Sundays, we alternated between my maternal and paternal grandparent’s homes for dinner. It was my mom’s mom, though, who was the real cook. God, she could make the best fried chicken, and she baked, and fried donuts and long johns. Every year for my birthday she’d bake me a chocolate chip cake. She’d add a scoop of ice cream, real ice cream with milk from her cows and eggs from her chickens, and I’d stir it all up together and eat it with a spoon. Now that was heaven!
What was the first frozen custard flavor?
There was one especially hot Iowa summer when I’d take my family out for ice cream looking for a particular coffee flavor that seemed to be perpetually sold-out. I said, heck, I’ll make my own. That first coffee ice cream had six shots of espresso in it, and you can bet that I roasted the beans myself. Next came dutch chocolate, and strawberry after that.
And then you were famous.
Pretty much. We’d take the ice cream to picnics and parties and it was always a hit. My daughter was our first salesperson; she was 14 at the time. When RAGBRAI went through South Amana, she sold nearly $700 worth of my frozen custard in less than three hours. It made an instant buzz. Folks were parking their bikes and calling their buddies and spreading the word that first day. And we haven’t changed much since then. We use Madagascar vanilla, we make our own rhubarb sauce, we make our own caramel with real sugar. Twice the cream, fifty percent total solids, and twice the eggs as anybody else in the freezer by a factor or two.
Both of your sons work for the company, too. What are the challenges and joys of being in business with your family?
I love my kids; they’re the biggest part of why I do this. My oldest son was stationed in Savannah, Georgia, and it was our plan to open the first David’s Famous Frozen Custard shop down there. Now he has passed away and his two brothers decided to come work for me. I didn’t ask them. My youngest is our production manager and my middle son is an attorney and handles our legal marketing. You may have heard this before, but if you don’t want to work, find the thing you love, it’s true. Making frozen custard with my family is what I love.
Try for Yourself:
David’s Famous Frozen Custard is made in Tipton, Iowa and can be found in Iowa City in the freezer at Bread Garden, Hy-Vee and Lucky’s Market. Flavors include coffee, dutch chocolate, lemon, butter mint, sea salt caramel, vanilla and rhubarb.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 181