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How Teo's Matthew Lee Preps For the Gelato World Tour

Photo: Jake Holt/Teo Espresso

Teo Espresso and Gelato's owner Matthew Lee is a veteran of the Austin gelato scene. He's been making gelato in Austin for eleven years, and is determined to win this weekend's Gelato World Tour competition in Austin. Eater spoke with Lee about his plans for the competition, which Lee says represents an unprecedented opportunity for North American gelato makers to come together and share their skills.

The Gelato World Tour kicks off today, May 9 at noon, and runs until this Sunday, May 11. Admission is free to attend one of their many, many workshops presented by Carpigiani Gelato University. To try the gelato, attendees can purchase a "gelato ticket" for $10 which gets you two full cups and three "tastes" of gelato, plus the opportunity to vote for your favorite. Read on for Matthew Lee's take on the competition.

How did you come to be involved with the Gelato World Tour, and what's your game plan?

We applied and we were on of the sixteen who made the cut, so now we're going to compete for North America's best gelato. The winners go to Italy. I've been making gelato in Austin for eleven years. We're one of the old guards in town so not as many people know about us.

We've been making our flavor over and over again for the past two weeks. Here's the hard part: we have go use different equipment – pans, freezers, display cases, everything. We're using milk being provided to us, and so it could be more watery or it could be more creamy. All those things have an impact. We've practiced adding more cream or less cream so we'll know what to do.

How common is it for gelato makers from all over North America to come together like this?

This is a big deal. No one ever done this in North America, and they've selected the top gelato makers from around the country. Normally, they don't get recognized for their skill.

Everyone competing has their own base recipe, which the key to good gelato. A lot of people buy their bases, but these guys are true artisans. For anybody who likes ice cream or gelato, this will be a great event for tasting real quality.

So American gelato makers never really get a chance to meet up?

Never. When I got to Italy I'll bump into people at this huge conference, but there are 80,000 people there from all over the world. If you hear someone speaking English, you know they're American or British or Canadian, but that's the only way to find each other.

No one has ever gotten everyone together to promote gelato here. The big difference between gelato and ice cream is the fat content, and I think it tastes better because there's less butterfat. You get a baked potato, then you put a bunch of butter and cheese, you don't' taste the baked potato. Gelato is a nice balance between the sweetness of cream and the flavor it's carrying.

What flavor will you be making, and why did you pick it?

I picked a flavor we call Nuts, which is basically a peanut butter Nutella flavor, but Nutella is very protective of their name so we don't use it. It's a symbolic union of classic Italian and American products: peanut butter with chocolate hazelnut. I talked to the guy who won the Australia competition, and when I told him about this flavor he was really excited. It's always been a popular flavor for us. Salted caramel is our most popular, but it's binary, people either love it our hate it. So we went with Nuts to please as many people as possible.

Since you've been in business so long, what's your take on the Austin gelato scene?

Over the years, there's been a bunch of gelato shops which come and go. It's a difficult business. We were one of the first ones, and then two, three four others opened, and they all closed. I think the reason why we've been successful is that we have a high-quality product. We really hope everyone in Austin will come out to support us in this competition, so we can represent Austin gelato in Italy.
· All Gelato World Tour Coverage [EATX]

Gelato World Tour

422 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701