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Unframed Ice Cream
Photograph: Claire Gunn Photography

In The Kitchen With: Yann Rey

The Mother City’s savant of the scoop shares the story of Unframed Ice Cream, and the flavour that sums up this genre-breaking brand...

Richard Holmes
Written by
Richard Holmes

'Sometimes,' says Yann Rey. 'You touch on magic. There are a lot of fails, but every once in a while you find something really interesting.'

And frozen 'magic' is what Rey is always searching for at Unframed, his genre-breaking ice cream brand that has found a home at the Time Out Market Cape Town.

A childhood in the French city of Lyon, and a family in the wine business, meant that Yann Rey was immersed in the world of food and wine from a young age. A degree in engineering took him to a life in Paris and New York, and then the world of high finance. That was until a return to start-up investing, and a long-held dream to create a world-class ice cream business, saw him take the plunge with his Unframed ice cream brand in Cape Town in 2016.

'I have always been obsessed by the southern tip of Africa, and I love Cape Town. My plan for Unframed was to build it from here, and take it internationally,' says Rey.

Today, alongside five branches across Cape Town and the Winelands, Rey has added his first dose of international flavour to the Unframed brand with a hugely popular parlour in the Time Out Market Cape Town. 

What sets Unframed Ice Cream apart from other scoops in Cape Town?

We are artisanal makers in the true sense of the word. It’s at the forefront of everything we do. We’re constantly thinking about flavour profiles, and reducing sugar, without ever compromising the flavour and texture.

Unframed is renowned for its innovative flavours… what’s the starting point?

To be honest, it really all starts with my own personal preference! But there’s an element of reverence in there too. We want to honour the classics but bring in some other flavours.

With vanilla, you really want to respect it. Chocolate is more interesting; you can play infinitely with it. And with chocolate in particular it’s about fun. Those are classics, with a bit of a twist. The direction we’re taking a bit more now, we flip the script and ask; what do our customers want? And, of course, our sorbets are all seasonal.

But here’s the thing: even if the flavour is something wacky, the flavour profile has to make sense. We’re not making these to shock people. The sweetness must be on point and the texture perfect. That’s the art of it.

Unframed Ice Cream
Photograph: Time Out Market Cape Town

Aside from flavour, you’re fanatical about texture… what’s the secret?

Texture is a complex equation, but essentially ice cream is about four different variables: sugar, fat, air and flavour, all operating at a very low temperature. Most of the product is water, and when you put water below zero it becomes ice. Sugar is a cheap trick for anti-freezing; the more you put in the softer it is.

I want our ice cream to feel as smooth as possible, but not too sweet, and with flavour balancing that makes sense. The only way to achieve perfect texture is perfect ingredients and perfect equipment. You can’t cheat.

How is the Time Out Market Cape Town different from your five other stores?

The beauty of the Market is that there’s enough foot traffic to try out new things and see how customers respond. We relaunched our waffles at the Market, and in winter we’re going to play around with cookies. We have a bunch of sundaes that we haven’t rolled out yet, and the Market is perfect for things like that.

Unframed Ice Cream Waffle
Photograph: Time Out Market Cape Town

Tell me a secret about one of the flavours you have scooped at the Market…

Blue spirulina! If the people who ever bought our blue coconut ice cream put their noses into a jar of spirulina they would be shocked! It’s a horrible taste. But… built into a coconut base, it feels warm and comfortable. And you almost don’t even understand why!

Which is the biggest seller?

You can do as much testing and R&D as you like, but you’re always going to sell mostly vanilla, chocolate and caramel. But it can also be a variation of those things. 

One flavour that has always surprised us is the vegan beetroot, chocolate and ginger. It’s very different. It’s vegan. It speaks to where we are as a brand. It’s a technically hard flavour and we put a ton of work into it; maybe 18 or 20 versions to get to the right one. But over the years it continues to deliver.

And your personal favourite flavour?

I think the salted chocolate touches on magic just a little bit. It has an old soul on the flavour roster, and we nailed the recipe on day one. When I’m at the lab and we churn that one, it’s just heaven.

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