KTCHeN, a commercial kitchen space located in North Charleston, in a shopping center most unnoticeable, shared with three food trucks, is where Brandon Belk makes ice cream sandwiches. Delicious, handmade, ice cream sandwiches. But these aren’t JUST handmade—they are local. In every sense of the word. And these little cream ‘wiches are making way for some big conversations.
Wich Cream?, owned by Brandon and Lauren Belk, was brought to life in 2014, with the desire to bring more awareness to the sustainability of the local food community, specifically dairy. “When it comes to farming and supporting local in Charleston, I find most people understand produce and chicken, but almost no one knows about dairy, and the differences between the processes that make it what we now know milk to be.” So, the Belks set out on their mission to educate and enrich the food community—through artisan ice cream.
When asked the question “why ice cream? Is ice cream a passion?’’ Belk laughs and explains “this is always an awkward question. Ice cream wasn’t the passion. The passion is in the ingredients we use to create the Wich Cream? sandwiches. We have become more passionate about it, with the ice cream being a vessel to share what we believe in, and make a difference in our food community.
Food affects everything—health, economy, social interactions, even politics. What we are eating is the most important issue society is facing right now. And if we can use ice cream to create an awareness, we have succeeded.” Belk’s training at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, eventually led him to working with Kevin Johnson at The Grocery, where he was inspired to focus on seasonal ingredients and source locally.
It was there he developed a relationship with George and Celeste Albers of Green Grocer, wanting to support their work and their farm. The Belks believe so much in the work of the Albers that Lauren Belk spends her day off, Monday, working on their farm, keeping the cows happy, which eventually return the favor. Green Grocer pasture raises Jersey cattle - known for producing the highest quality milk and is the only milk used by Wich Cream? uses.
They also source their cornmeal from Albers. Carolina Gourdseed, an heirloom seed grown on the Rosebank Plantation farm, and ground and packaged by Anson Mills, “has incredible flavor and lends itself better to baking,” as Belk would have it. To honor the work and commitment of Celeste Albers, the Belks created “Pure Celeste” a ’wich made with her ingredients.
Pure Celeste was the beginning of the pair’s tribute series. Belk, giddy with excitement, revealed their next tribute, coming in July: Blueberry Cheri—for Cheri Ward, owner of Blue Pearl Farms. Blueberry Cheri is a mix of her blueberries and raw honey, with a hint of chamomile. “Cheri and her husband (Robert) hand pick every single blueberry; their bees pollinate their blueberries, which you can taste in their honey. These are the most amazing blueberries,” Belk boasts.
Wich Cream? is now being distributed in 21 different venues, but you can still find Brandon and Lauren with their ice cream cart at the Charleston Farmers’ Market every Saturday, where they find themselves educating the community through conversations over ice cream. “It’s great to be at the farmers’ market because we can direct our customers right to the vendors who we buy our ingredients from. ‘Go grab blueberries from Cheri, get eggs from Nathan, grab milk from Celeste.’ We can support them as they support us.”
“Food defines us, fuels us. As a kid, my parents to me ‘You are what you eat’, and it drove me crazy—I took it literally and thought ‘what does that even mean?’” Now, as a husband and father that old adage embodies him, as he sells ice cream every Saturday, alongside his wife, turning everyone into a local, handmade artisan ice cream sandwich.
FROM THE SOURCE:
Eggs: Fili-West Farms
Milk: Green Grocer
Cream: Lowcountry Creamery
Strawberries: Shuler Peach Co., Wabi Sabi Farm
Blueberries: Blue Pearl Farms
Cornmeal: Rosebank Plantation Farm
Salt: Bulls Bay Saltworks