“Avocado and chocolate-covered corn-chip gelato.”
Adam Semple is recalling his failed experiments. This flavour was particularly poorly received. It’s an example of the sort of wild combination that Stampede, Semple’s gelato business, has made the norm. Dabbling in Mexican fusion may have proved disastrous, but Stampede’s rise has been anything but.
To find anything remotely similar to this innovative gelato, you must travel internationally, something Semple has done extensively. “I met a girl who took me to Portland, Oregon,” he says. “There’s a place there called Salt & Straw which really pushes the boundaries of what you can do with gelato.”
It was there Semple fell in love with the idea of gelato and how far it could be taken. When he returned to Perth he was disappointed to find no one pushing the envelope anywhere near as much as Salt & Straw was. Semple decided to take matters into his own hands. He bought the necessary equipment off Gumtree in January 2015 and taught himself, using a combination of in-depth articles, blogs and video tutorials – anything he could find online.
Three months later, he started scooping from his cart at The Mantle, a shared dining space in Fremantle. He’s since catered events, added team members and opened a scoop shop in Bayswater, all while continuing to produce the bulk of Stampede’s stock himself.
Some of the past flavours sound downright tasty: rosemary and olive oil; watermelon and basil; coconut and cherry. Some sound intriguing, such as salted fennel; or the adults-only champagne and orange. Others are just weird: bacon, macadamia and toffee; mango and sticky rice.
Prior to Semple’s year-long stint in the United States, he was a freelance photographer, a real estate agent, a professional cyclist in Italy and a journalist for cycling publications. He’s also dabbled in finance and “a couple of other things” over the past six years. You can tell his mind never sleeps. He’s just taken up freehand drawing classes. He’s been rock climbing for a few months. He’s learning piano. In between all that, he conceives the flavours no one else can.
Inspiration comes from unexpected places. While browsing a trail-running website – another of his hobbies – Semple came across a post by the American author Christopher McDougall, who suggested that Oreo create a Mountain Dew flavour. Semple hijacked that combination and put it into gelato. “It’s my favourite flavour,” he says.
When he isn’t riffing on suggestions made on obscure websites, Semple is brainstorming combinations using a spreadsheet that compiles all manner of ingredients. “I try to pick ingredients I know will go together, but that won’t necessarily cancel each other out too much,” he says.
He’s particularly fond of the harmony created when sweet and salty meet. “I’m all about super salty. People need to embrace it,” he says. Eclectic flavours necessitate eclectic suppliers, and Semple scours as many of the state’s farmers, producers and markets as he has to in order to get what he wants.
Once a flavour is locked in and ingredients are sourced, milk and cream are heated in a pasteuriser. The dry ingredients are added, then the mix is heated and cooled. Temperatures always vary, depending on the components. This mixture is aged for 24 hours.
The ageing process allows osmosis to occur, ensuring water, sugar, fats and proteins combine at the molecular level, becoming stable enough to hold a frozen foam consistency. Without ageing, gelato can have a sandy texture and inferior taste.
“It’s time-consuming and tricky, but it’s intensely scientific,” Semple says. “And I fucking love science.” Later, fresh ingredients such as herbs and fruit can be added. The mixture is then churned, frozen and eaten. The whole process takes 25 hours. That’s the minimum, though. Semple also makes his own brownies, caramels, jams and curds, and roasts bacon in-house.
There are limits to what can and can’t go in a batch, though if you know your science, they’re hard to reach. “You can’t have too much alcohol or fresh herbs. Otherwise the mix won’t freeze properly,” Semple says. His machine only churns four litres at a time, which lends itself to the unpredictable nature of Stampede’s menu. No flavour ever appears two weeks in a row.
Despite the wild combinations, Stampede gelato almost never exceeds seven or eight ingredients, including milk and cream. It’s a refreshing change from the extensive lists of identification codes found on the back of most supermarket ice creams.
The result is an incredibly rich, smooth gelato with no sign of ice crystals or unnatural fluorescent colours. On the topic of big ice-cream companies, Semple plays a straight bat. “They create too much trash, poison too many people, and taste not nearly good enough, so some rich old men can get richer,” he says. “It makes me sad.”
Thankfully, Semple doesn’t spend much time thinking about that stuff. A visit to The Mantle will show you that – he does a lot more talking than the average scooper. He has to, given his product often defies norms.
Stampede’s gelato starts conversations. It brings together strangers who will raise an eyebrow and try a free sample. But while divided on the white chocolate and chicken salt fries gelato (that’s one flavour), they’ll be united in appreciating that they’re trying something truly different.
Stampede Gelato Fremantle
The Mantle, 1 James Street, Fremantle
Thu to Sat 6pm–10pm
Stampede Gelato Bayswater
11 King William Street, Bayswater
Thu to Sun 12pm–5pm