When Tyra Banks decided to open her ice cream shop Smize in Santa Monica, she sought out an “aerated dessert consultant” to advise her. Luckily Dr. Maya Warren, an ice cream scientist, had just come off a stint advising Cold Stone Creamery’s international operations.
The “America’s Next Top Model” creator and entrepreneur had come up with the Smize concept, but Warren took on product development, refining flavors and helping create the signature Smize surprise that Banks asked for — a cookie-dough truffle at the bottom of each container. What exactly does an ice cream scientist do? “I can be an extension of her taste buds but on a technical level,” Warren explains.
“Tyra and I are both obsessed with frozen custard,” she says. Frozen custard is eggier and denser than ice cream, with at least 1.4% egg yolk and 14% dairy fat in the mixture. “We like a dense product; we’re both drawn to higher fat,” Warren says.
Smize currently offers seven flavors, and Warren’s next assignment is perfecting an oft-requested nondairy ice cream. She’s experimenting with oat milk and coconut oil, looking for the magic combination to give it “that creamy mouthfeel.”
Warren fell in love with ice cream while working toward her food science graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in grad school the multitalented scientist was looking to take on other challenges and tried out for “The Amazing Race” with her lab partner. The pair traveled from New York to Scotland, Sicily, Morocco, Malta, Singapore the Philippines and beyond in just three weeks and won the reality series’ 25th season. “We knew there had never been two female food scientists” on the show, she says, but she’s especially proud that “we’ve been able to inspire people to see scientists differently.”
What’s her favorite off-the-wall ice cream flavor? How about roasted beet – Warren adds honey and pistachios to the roasted roots and tops with goat cheese and honey for a gourmet alternative.