Working as Dreyers Grand Ice Cream's "Official Taste Tester" is an unusual job! John Harrison discussed the qualities he seeks when tasting. "There are three things that are important. We eat with our eyes so the ice cream must look appetizing. Flavor is the keyword as balance between fresh dairy and added flavoring. The next thing is a smooth and creamy texture. Defects like icy, fluffy and gummy do not belong in premium ice cream.
That is my job. I start early, at 7:30 A. M., when my taste buds are fresh. I taste yesterday's ice cream because nothing leaves the warehouse until I approve it. The ice cream makers bring samples into the laboratory from each batch run marked one-two-and-three, which is the beginning, middle and last samples of that day's full production. It takes four to five hours to go through 60 packages.
Like the Wine Taster, I start with the white wines of ice cream- vanilla, French vanilla, vanilla bean and double vanilla. Then I work my way up to the Bordeaux's of ice cream such as black walnut, mint chocolate chip and the heavier flavors. My tasting method is called the three "S's"- Swirl, Smack and Spit. There is a 55 gallon plastic trash can ''Æ'''¹..."on wheels' following me down the lab table while I am swirling, smacking and spitting."
He even uses a gold plated spoon because silver tarnishes and wood or plastic have a slight resin after tasting. John Harrison loves his job! "I usually do not swallow but anyone who sees me would know I swallow more than I should."
John is only able to eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and cannot have anything heavy, oily, or with onions, garlic and peppers during the day.
"We experience flavor, bouquet and aroma from the nose and the olfactory nerve in the forehead. Food that is extremely hot or cold affects the taste buds. Temperature is very important with ice cream. I have to temper the ice cream, warm it up a bit."
John must clean his taste buds off with a cup of herbal decaffeinated tea before beginning tasting ice cream. Caffeine, smoking and drinking alcohol clogs the taste buds and impede tasting. He can not even wear scented shaving lotion. Friday nights he is allowed to eat pepperoni pizza and garlic mashed potatoes. John feels, "Eating this way is not boring, it becomes a lifestyle. I have to watch my taste buds; Dreyers insured them for $1,000,000.