The Humphry Slocombe Factor: Is the Joke On Us?


Elizabeth Weil's feature profile on pastry chef Jake Godby, the owner of the cultish ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe, came out in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. As she is apt to do, Weil turned what I thought would be the expected, all-praise-wacky-ice-cream-flavors piece into an article that subtly presented a couple thoughtful ways to view SF's food world. She writes of Godby:

For instance, he also makes Peanut Butter Curry — which includes house-made peanut butter and Vadouvan Golden Mix, a top-of-the-line blend of garlic, shallots, onions and spices. Godby does this under ice cream’s cloak of innocence and with a straight face, in the same spirit that Sarah Silverman dresses like a 12-year-old and tells bigoted jokes. “I only make ice cream I think tastes good,” he claims. Why do you not want to eat a foie gras ice cream sandwich? Or, why do you? The effect is disorienting. The joke might be on us.

Sometimes, watching people line up down Harrison Street for Godby's ice cream, I think just that—that there's a joke in this somewhere. Certainly, Godby makes some great ice cream, but a huge part of the draw for his followers is about the experience of it, to be able to say one has had proscuitto ice cream.

I can't imagine Godby—a really nice, truly shy guy who once told me in an interview that he considers himself a punk—doesn't chuckle sometimes at his amazing success. It's like he said. 'Screw you' to the sentiment of ice cream, and still the hordes came.

Funny thing: I walked into Dogpatch's Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous the other day and had a great scoop of "Old-Fashioned" ice cream (in this case, vanilla with booze-laden cherries) and my knee-jerk concern was that this little ice cream shop, as good as it is, will never get the attention they deserve because their flavors are too ordinary, too perhaps simply delicious. Still, considering Godby's increasingly mainstream success, I see the future: Vanilla just might be the next deviant flavor.

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