Sweetfest: Big Gay Ice Cream soft-serve empire started as a laugh

Big Gay Ice Cream's signature Choinkwich ice-cream sandwich with bacon.
Big Gay Ice Cream's signature Choinkwich ice-cream sandwich with bacon. Photo: Donny Tsang

Seven years ago, when New Yorkers Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint first started driving an ice-cream truck for a laugh, neither of them ever dreamed it would be the start of a soft-serve empire.

Back then, Petroff worked in corporate HR and had been laid off after the GFC while Quint was a Julliard-trained classical bassoonist who needed to make ends meet between gigs.

When a friend bought an ice-cream truck and posted on Facebook looking for drivers, the couple decided it would be a whimsical way to spend a summer together.

As soon as they started their company out of a converted Mister Softee truck, Big Gay Ice Cream, with its rainbow logo and tongue-in-cheek toppings, was an instant hit.

On stage at Sweetfest on Sunday, the Big Gay Ice Cream boys were greeted to a rousing reception more typically given to rock stars than an ice-cream man.

Doug Quint of Big Gay Ice Cream.
Doug Quint of Big Gay Ice Cream.  Photo: Donny Tsang

After teaching the crowd how to make one of their signature creations, a Choinkwich – an ice-cream sandwich with crispy bacon – the duo have throngs of fans asking for autographs of their recently published book and requesting they pose for photos.

The weekend long festival for those with sweet tooths, Sweetfest packed out North Melbourne's Meat Market.

More than 3000 people flocked to the inaugural event during the closing weekend of Good Food Month.

More than 20 different stallholders offered every kind of calorific confection imaginable – from green tea chocolate to glazed doughnuts, salted caramel scrolls to strawberry watermelon cake from Sydney's iconic Black Star Pastry.

But it was Big Gay Ice Cream that were the stars of the show.

For their first trip to Australia, Big Gay Ice Cream also teamed up with Gelato Messina to throw a sold-out ice cream social at Thousand Pound Bend.

Big Gay Ice Cream co-founder Bryan Petroff.
Big Gay Ice Cream co-founder Bryan Petroff. 

The pair have already announced plans to return in 2016 for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

These days, the truck is gone and Big Gay Ice Cream has grown to include the two Manhattan shops in the East Village and West Village and another in Philadelphia. Having published their first cookbook in April, the pair are now planning to expand to California.

"There came a point when we had to decide if this was just a bit of fun or if we were going to be ice-cream men," Petroff says.

"It's certainly more fun than working in an office."