Most people would agree ice cream is already pretty exciting – but what if you could wear it on your finger in the form of gold-coin ice-cream ring? Or tackle a colossal chocolate squid in pursuit of it? Joshua Lee is head of design at Giapo, an ice-cream store with a difference, and tasked with creating such feats of imagination. “I meet regularly with Giapo and his wife Annarosa to discuss new projects,” says Josh. “Once a brief is decided, I brainstorm with the in-house design team of seven.” The ideas that have legs (pardon the pun) are then developed to the stage where a prototype can be handed over to the chefs to make for Giapo’s customers. Josh, who studied a Bachelor of Design at AUT, works during the day as a product development engineer at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare but his evenings and weekends are all about edible art. He scored the gig at Giapo in answer to a Facebook post. “A friend at AUT asked if anyone was interested in design work for a local ice-cream store. I messaged him straight away.” Josh met with Giapo at his store, they clicked, and the rest is history.
That history now includes acknowledgement in the Best Design Awards (2018), a programme run by the Designers Institute of New Zealand. The colossal squid creation that he worked on with Giapo was named as a finalist. “It was very humbling to be recognised by the New Zealand design community on a national level as it’s not very often that food is considered design.” Josh’s process usually starts with a “massive brain-dump of ideas” that can range from the predictable to the outright whacky. “I try not to put too many limitations on my creativity at the start. I then funnel these down to one or two. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m not thinking about design at all. Like when I’m in the shower,” he says. One of his most memorable projects was for Valentine’s Day 2017.
“I designed and developed a two-becomes-one creation, where one half of a chocolate heart is on one ice cream and the other half on another. When brought together, they create a whole heart.” Josh says working with edible materials wasn’t as steep a learning curve as he expected. “Chocolate is very similar to working with plaster, which I have used in the past. The only difference is that the chocolate can be very brittle.” He’s Asavoury lover, so not too many of his experiments end up devoured. “But I do enjoy the occasional treat, especially a blackberry and Martini Rosso sorbet from Giapo.”