Food science students in professor Sam Nugen’s course, Food Science 563, are once again competing in a taste test to win the honor of inventing the next seasonal UMass Amherst ice cream flavor. The campus community is invited to attend the event at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27 in 168C Campus Center, where judges will choose the next UMass Amherst ice cream flavor from among four developed by food science student teams. The first 100 guests will receive free samples of the competing flavors.
The winning flavor will be produced and marketed by Bruce Jenks and Laurie Cuevas, owners of Maple Valley Creamery in Hadley, who will also serve as judges for the competition. In the competition last April, judges including Jenks and Cuevas chose a cherry chocolate chunk flavor that Maple Valley sold across the Commonwealth as UMass Cherry Bomb ice cream. Maple Valley produces hand-packed, all-dairy ice cream with locally sourced cream and milk.
In addition to Cuevas and Jenks, guest judges this year are Charlotte Dewey, director of dining services of Eaglebrook School in Deerfield; executive chef Jeremy Roush of Amherst College; publisher Mary Reilly of Edible Pioneer Valley; head chef Chris Pappademas of The Farm Table at Kringle Candle in Bernardston; head cook Abigail LaPan of the UMass University Club; Haley Morin, assistant manager of the UMass University Club, and Mark Krause, owner of Esselon Café in Hadley.
To help guide students with information on ingredient availability, cost, suppliers and related information, Jenks and Cuevas visit Nugen’s class a number of times over the semester. This year, flavors in the competition are blueberry cheesecake, browned butter chip, cranberry dark chocolate and s’mores.
Nugen says students produce and test their small batches of experimental ice cream flavors in the food science department’s pilot plant, a state-of-the-art food production facility with freezers, mixers, pasteurizers and other equipment needed for producing small batches. The campus is fortunate to have the facility, which he says is “a tremendous help in both research and teaching.”
The seniors taking part in this capstone project learn core principles of food science such as the microbiology and chemistry of food, processing, market analysis, value to consumer, shelf stability, regulations, health and nutrition considerations. They must balance food safety, affordability and quality, batch consistency and sensory testing so the final product looks, smells and tastes good. This experience is extraordinarily helpful as students enter food science research and industry product development careers, Nugen notes.