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Original Designs From a Genius of Gelato

June 23, 2002|DINAH ENG

When professional chefs want a new flavor of ice cream, Mike Nademlynsky is the man they call. Funky Fig, Lavender Honey, Chai Tea and Prickly Pear are just some of the creations the ice cream designer concocts in his small warehouse in Cypress. "I love the challenge," says Nademlynsky, whose Florentino Ice Cream line offers more than 100 flavors. "I just made a tarragon sorbet for a hotel in San Diego, and a New Jersey hotel wants pomegranate sorbet. I don't have any salesmen. People just find out about me from word of mouth."

You can't buy his creations in a supermarket, but if you dine at a Hilton or Starwood hotel, you may find his confections on the menu. His specialty items are also among the dessert offerings at upscale area restaurants such as the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon, Maple Drive in Beverly Hills and Ocean Avenue Seafood in Santa Monica.

Nademlynsky escaped from then-Communist Czechoslovakia in 1969 with his wife and three children and found his way to Los Angeles after an initial stay in Chicago. The city of Los Angeles hired him as a contract diver to repair pilings in the harbor, but Nademlynsky really wanted to have his own business. Homesick for European pastry and espresso, he opened a European-style cafe in 1982 (which he closed in 1987) and began to experiment with making the Italian ice cream, gelato.

"The United States, to me, was always freedom," says Nademlynsky, 64. "Here everybody comes from somewhere else, and I feel at home. Even when my English was lousy, people would help me because they saw me working hard and trying to make something."

Today, despite the exotic offerings in his inventory, Nademlynsky's best-selling flavor is still Vanilla Bean. But not just ordinary vanilla, mind you--Nademlynsky's version mixes sun-dried vanilla flavorings from Tahiti, Madagacar and several other countries in a secret formula that he proudly says is "like no other vanilla you will ever taste."

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