USC alumnus introduces Scoops to L.A. food scene
Posted January 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm in Lifestyle
The story of Scoops Westside, a new ice cream store opened by USC alumnus Matthew Kang, began when Kang, a business administration major, decided to approach the owner of his favorite ice cream cafĂ©.
It happened at the original Scoops location on Heliotrope Drive near Melrose Avenue, which Kang would visit almost every day during his commute home from school.
The owner, Tai Kim, was lunching on a sloppy bagel sandwich when Kang first spoke to him. âDid you attend culinary school?â he asked.
Kimâs eyes flashed indignantly. âAttend? I used to teach culinary school!â
Kang knew then that he had found a serious foodie. The two soon formed a close friendship, bonding not only over their common Korean-American heritage, but also their zeal for food. Kim became Kangâs culinary mentor.
âTai taught me a lot about food,â Kang said. âHe would take me out to eat all these new and interesting dishes, and he would always be thinking about how to translate them into ice cream.â
It was through Kim and his exotic ice cream creations that Kang got to try his first black truffle and foie gras. As his taste buds evolved, so did his career dreams.
While his fellow Marshall classmates crunched numbers at summer internships, Kang spent his free time watching the Food Network and perfecting his risotto-making skills.
âIce cream manâ isnât typically the career aspiration for most college graduates, especially for a student like Kang. But after his graduation in 2007 and a two-year stint working as a credit analyst at City National Bank, Kang realized his heart was not in the corporate world.
In 2009, Kang left his position at City National Bank. For the next 18 months, he studied food more intensely. He regularly updated his food blog, âMattatouille.â He scoured the city for âcrazy food adventuresâ and coffee tastings with fellow bloggers. He worked with Kim for six months, learning the tricks needed to run a successful ice creamery.
Finally, on Dec. 1, 2010, he opened Scoops Westside in the Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles with grand plans to sweeten up the area.
âPalms is an under-served neighborhood,â Kang said. âThereâs no place to hang out. Itâs a dead zone. I want to help make Palms a gastronomically cool destination.â
But Kang has a different idea of cool.
Tucked in the middle of an obscure strip mall on Overland Avenue, Scoops Westside does not sizzle hip or haute. Instead, the dĂ©cor is simple and plain. Bare pastel walls, food magazines neatly stacked on clean tables and a single planter filled with white orchids by the counter.
Instead of clashing with the modest backdrop of Palms, Scoops Westside has a soft, comforting personality. Kang plays owner, operations manager, server, cashier and errand boy. He does everything from ice cream pick-ups and handling checkbooks to entertaining customers and wiping ice cream spills, all while marketing himself via Twitter and Facebook.
âI donât even get a break to eat,â Kang said. âMy friends take pity on me and bring me food.â
But Kang says things have changed for the better. Instead of eyeing the clock impatiently so he can hop out of his office cubicle and into his next edible adventure, Kang now has the perfect excuse to dream about food all day, specifically, new flavor combinations for his ever-changing ice cream menu, which he composes with Kim.
Kang offers seven to 10 different ice cream flavors on a daily rotation, two of which are dairy free. He keeps the selection limited so that he can have a quick turnover of the daily batches, thus offering consistently fresh dishes.
But certain flavors, like the brown bread ice cream, make frequent reappearances. This customer favorite is neither brown nor bready, but smooth and crunchy, sweet and toasty. It is an intense milky concoction swirled with crackles of grape nuts. Even those who shun the health-nut breakfast cereal will not be able to resist the delightful contrast of textures and flavors in one creamy lick.
Other flavors are similarly innovative and never dull, such as cinnamon cashew, coconut white chocolate wasabi and salted honey. Some are more popular than others, but Kangâs goal is to encourage even the most timid eaters to try unconventional flavors in the conventional form of ice cream.
For Kang, the constant flavor experiments are not about building the perfect ice cream.
âEveryone has a different idea of what perfect is,â he said. âI think the perfect ice cream is one that gives you joy.â
Judging by the happy grins on his customersâs faces, Kangâs Scoops Westside appears to churn sweet, creamy perfection.