Nestled in a row of shophouses at Block 506, Bishan Street 11, is a nondescript-looking gelato café that serves one-of-a-kind flavours that you can’t find anywhere else in Singapore.
Working diligently behind the counter as a group of children crowd in front of the ice cream display on a Saturday afternoon are 31-year-old founder, Damien, and his fiancée, 32-year-old Hao Zhen.
A Sweet Dream
Established in February this year, Denzy Gelato’s different flavours were all inspired by Damien’s travels around the world and are all laboriously and lovingly made from scratch.
“Some of our unique flavours I tasted them while travelling and thought they aren’t found in Singapore, so I thought it would be a good idea to bring these flavours here,” Damien told Vulcan Post.
For example, the flavour, Persian Prince, uses stone-ground almonds, prepared 10 hours prior, and the saffron herb to create the nutty and exotic gelato.
Before Damien became a gelatician, he had worked as a recruiter for six years, specialising in the FMCG and tech industries, after graduating from the University of Sydney with a degree in Economics.
Hao Zhen is an accountant and helps out during the weekends or when Damien’s short of hands.
Growing up influenced by his father, who is a cook, Damien said that he’s always had a passion for food.
So starting a business in F&B was something he has always had in mind.
“I sold that dream to my partner and together we emptied our savings to start the business,” Damien said.
The couple poured in $160,000 to open Denzy Gelato.
“I settled on the idea of gelato as it was something I could pick up quickly and have more control over.”
The beauty about gelato is that its like a blank canvas and we could follow trends and fads by playing around with flavor combinations.
It’s A Doozy, ‘Denzy’!
When asked what does Denzy mean, Damien explained that it’s a wordplay on the word, ‘frenzy’.
He hopes that their customers will associate the rush of excitement when they taste or see the gelato he makes.
The flavours, Persian Prince and Blondie Beach were inspired by Damien’s time in Italy where he spent a few weeks learning how to make gelato.
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Elderflower Mojito came about when Damien and Hao Zhen were on a holiday in Bali and found the rum-based drink so refreshing, he decided to turn it into a gelato, sans the alcohol because it would be overpowering.
“Some flavours take a while to get the balance right but we aim to introduce new flavours every few weeks to keep things fresh,” he said.
He introduced Whisky & Salted Pecan Brittle flavour for Father’s Day and the Ruby Chocolate flavour as part of the new weekly flavour, but they were so popular, he decided to keep them on the regular line-up.
As for the classic Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, and Skinny Dark Chocolate flavours he serves, Damien shared that they use real, quality Tahitian vanilla pods that they extract in-house and premium dark chocolate respectively.
“While we try to bring adventurous flavours, we offer some classics to reach out to customers seeking for something familiar,” he explained.
“Hopefully, they will be enticed to take the step into the unknown!”
Seeing The Sweet Side Of Business
“It’s never easy to set up a new business, from finding a suitable location to getting the relevant approvals from authorities, as well as ensuring that the business has sufficient working capital to stay afloat,” Damien said.
“Everything was completely new to us and nothing could have prepared us for this.”
He added that everyday a new challenge presents itself but they have to stay focused and level-headed to tackle one obstacle at a time.
“Well, I guess that’s the fun part of entrepreneurship!”
Working long hours is common in the F&B industry, and for a heartland gelatician like Damien, his life almost revolves around running the business.
While automation is welcome in most businesses, some things require that human touch.
When it comes to preparing the ingredients, for example for Persian Prince, Damien explained that stone-grinding the nuts allows them to control the quality and taste of the almond paste that goes into the gelato.
“It’s 100% pure nuts, no preservatives, no artificial flavourings. Because we don’t have industrial equipments, we take a longer time to grind down the nuts so there’s no gritty feeling in the mouth.”
“Doing it ourselves, also allows us to pass on cost savings to our customers.”
More Sweet Happenings To Come
Since opening its doors just six months ago, Denzy Gelato already has garnered loyal support from a handful of returning customers.
Damien revealed that they’ve already received invitations to open new outlets but he thinks that it’s still too soon, at least for this year.
“We hope that we can reach out to people out of the Bishan neighbourhood too,” he said, a Bishan resident himself.
With so many dessert-café establishments in Singapore who have made a name for themselves, we asked Damien if he hopes Denzy Gelato will become like a ‘Creamier of Bishan’ or a ‘Sunday Folks of Bishan’.
He answered, “It’s nice to be synonymous to those established brands out there. But I hope we are also able to carve out our own unique identity.”
“We want to be able to bring Denzy Gelato to more people in Singapore and share the happiness, continue to think of new flavour combinations and bring new experiences to our customers.”
Right now, Damien intends to focus on growing in other areas such as events and supplying to cafés and restaurants first, so you can expect to taste some of Denzy Gelato’s unique flavours elsewhere.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post