One of the LRA's newest members is Gail's Fine Ice Cream. Located in Baton Rouge, the ice cream shop from the Hufft Marchand Hospitality (HMH) group is the newest addition to the Perkins Road Overpass District. Co-Founder of Gail's and CEO of HMH Nick Hufft says this opening means the start of something big and new.
What started as a window down the side of HMH's Junior's on Harrison, out in New Orleans, has grown to opening a flagship store in Baton Rouge, primed to be a prototype for future Gail's locations. Hufft says the location is perfect for post-dinner and post-shopping traffic, it's also right on the other side of the I-10 overpass from his other restaurant The Overpass Merchant. This location was too good to pass up, so when the former tenants moved out he was right there to scoop up the property.
"We're already an anchor in the neighborhood, we’ve been there for seven years," said Hufft. "So, I had been eyeing it down for a minute. We looked at the location as --- it's in one of the greatest neighborhoods in Baton Rouge, but really surrounded by commercial businesses, boutiques, and restaurants. Having foot traffic, and not having an ice cream shop in the neighborhood, we thought it would be a great place."
Hufft began his career in restaurants after a novel idea he had one night out at the bars. The LSU graduate from New Orleans wished he had some familiar comforts of home like late night eating at classic New Orleans hot spots Camellia Grill. His ingenuity, and passion for the customer experience, sparked the drive for starting his own food truck. Once known as Moochies Mobile Muchies, many of us now know it as the burger joint Curbside Burgers in Mid-City.
"I walked out of a bar one night and there was no Dough Bowl, no Trolley Stop or Camellia Grill for me to eat at," Hufft said. "So I took it upon myself to change that."
Everything continued to grow for Hufft and his business partner Lon Marchand. The two opened The Overpass Merchant, and then Junior's on Harrison in 2019, with Gail's Fine Ice Cream being served from a window behind the restaurant.
Currently, Gail's is focusing on getting it right in Baton Rouge before expansion continues. They've brought on Rachel Caprera to oversee the ice cream, but her main role is the new pastry chef, overseeing all pastry production for all HMH restaurants. Caprera formerly worked in the kitchens of Commander's Palace, Restaurant August and Willa Jean.
All of the flavors are made in special small batches, ensuring that fine, homemade taste. Gail's flavors range from classic vanilla, to out of the ordinary, yet still familiar, like the little monsters (vanilla bean ice cream dyed azure and studded with bits of Oreos) and lemon berry ice box pie (Hufft's favorite, made with homemade lemon curd and berry compote). Caprera also used true Madagascar vanilla beans for the vanilla ice cream, and extra brute cocoa powder for the milk chocolate flavor. It's all about taking time, and making an effort to use quality and premium ingredients says Hufft.
No matter how old you are, you can enjoy the sweet pleasure of ice cream, Hufft's favorite thing about the dessert. When the school bell rings, kids in the long line are full of joy. Fresh out of the classroom, they patiently wait for their turn to see the offerings of the case. The response to the opening in Baton Rouge has been great he says, with lines out the door every night until 9 pm.
"There’s never a disgruntled customer," Hufft said. "We have yet to see someone not smiling as they enter the building. Ice cream makes everyone happy. Anyone from 3 to 90 years old can enjoy it. We take pride in using fresh ingredients for our batches. We’re happy to be serving these two communities a product that we love making."
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.