The High Road Craft founder puts ice cream aside to delve into the science of food in his first cookbook.
By Emily Crowe
Already revered for his masterful and inventive frozen desserts, High Road Craft Ice Cream founder and CEO Keith Schroeder can now add cookbook author to his list of culinary achievements. His Mad Delicious: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing, out today, gives home cooks a look at the science behind healthful cooking, as well as tried-and-true cooking techniques, tips, and original recipes.
Schroeder, who is a trained chef in addition to being an ice cream expert, is passionate about helping at-home chefs learn their way around a recipe. “This is a pretty comprehensive culinary education that can turn someone into a quite competent home cook without being intimidating, without freaking them out,” he explains.
Here, Schroeder talks about going beyond ice cream, simplifying the science of cooking, and future plans for his growing company.
What was the inspiration for writing Mad Delicious?
Keith Schroeder: Like a number of things in life, sometimes projects get sparked when you meet people. About three years ago, I met a wonderful woman, a very talented woman—her name is Shaun Chavis—and she was a cookbook editor at Oxmoor House Publishing. She had this idea to do a very acceptable, light-cooking book that focused in on the hows, they whys, the science of cooking light. She just couldn’t find someone with the right voice to write the book.
She was introduced to me by one of our salespeople at High Road, didn’t know that I was a chef, [and] asked me to submit a proposal for an ice cream cookbook. I submitted a proposal for an ice cream cookbook and she said “Oh my god, you didn’t tell me you were a chef.” She said, “I have this idea for a project, would you collaborate with me?” And I said sure. Then off to the races we went on trying to create a cooking, science–focused cookbook that wasn’t scary.
Has the science of food always interested you?
KS: Always. I’ve been a real tinkerer; I deliberately try to break rules when I cook. A lot of the reason why I guess I break classic, tried-and-true rules was because I thought that some of the rules seemed too confining, too constraining. So when you learn a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of thermodynamics—a little bit of everything—you become a better, more inventive cook.
How did you go about learning the science behind cooking?
KS: I did a ton of research. A lot of it, of course, was cooking over the years. I was a chef in restaurants, hotels, and resorts for many years before I started the ice cream company, but I’m a pretty rabid reader and researcher.
Is light cooking something you do often and in your own home?
KS: Yes, on a very regular basis. I live in a pretty cosmopolitan area where we have plenty of access to produce and farmers markets, and certainly as busy as I am as a business owner, I think if I didn’t cook light I would be dead. It matters to me. I think food tastes better when it’s balanced. Certainly, richness has its place, but I think that there are a lot of vibrant cuisines in the world that are light by their nature. In the book you can see a lot of influence from cultures and cuisines that cook kind of light inherently.
You’ve begun offering healthy cooking classes at the High Road kitchens. What’s your favorite part about sharing your craft with others?
KS: I just like watching people feel some sense of power and command over a new idea or a new technique, or something that they were intimidated by. For me, it’s fun to minimize the anxiety that folks can feel [about] cooking.
Your book isn’t focused on ice cream or dessert. Is there any connection to your ice cream business?
KS: I think it’s not really connected to my business at all, other than a cursory mention in my bio in the back. But I think what it does do for my business is point out that we are a company that’s focused on technique and the culinary artistry behind it. We happen to make ice cream, but we’re food people.
Has this experience sparked your interest in writing additional cookbooks?
KS: Yes, very much so. For me, it keeps me fresh. I think it certainly influences the research and development time spent here at High Road, and it’s just fun. The coolest part of it is meeting all of the really cool people that are involved in food publishing. It’s a very interesting crop of people, from photographers to food stylists. It was really enlightening to learn about how much goes into a production like a cookbook.
High Road has seen some big expansion this year. What can you share about the company’s new factory?
KS: It’s a very exciting time for the company. We just finished construction on a 25,000-square-foot facility. It’s made our capacity 20 times what it was at the old factory.
What else is in store for High Road?
KS: We’re now working on a number of private-label projects in addition to the High Road brand. We did a project with Fairway Market in New York City, which is really just awesome. It was just a blast. We’re starting to get into the ice cream mix business. Our foodservice business is really growing. We sell gelato mix, sorbet mix, and ice cream mix for people who like to make their own in-house. It’s fun for us to collaborate with those types of customers as well.
Chef Alton Brown has commended both your cookbook and your ice cream. How does it feel to have his stamp of approval?
KS: Humbling. It’s weird looking at the cookbook cover and having such a gracious quote. When he puts his stamp on something, it matters. I think it’s something that he’s very cautious about. I’m sure plenty of people are knocking down his door to ask for a quote. He lives here in the metro Atlanta area; maybe it’s the geography that’s made him have that kind of affinity to us. He’s generally just a good dude. I think from one nerd to another, he respects the depth of research, and it’s not just words on a page. The recipes work.