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Cups, Cones, and Classified: Maria Indah and Gregory Lentini of Gelato Secrets Shares About the Hush-Hush Behind their Counters

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It’s nearly always summer in the tropical island of Bali. A cup (or cone) of gelato is always the cherry on top of a great day. And boy, do we have the refreshing piece for you. –Interview by Sarah Nathan.

Not the first, and certainly not the most crazy popular with visitors coming in by the buses to make a line just for a cup, but Gelato Secrets is certainly the staple name in Bali’s Italian frozen dessert scene. With eye-catching pink outlets spread all over the island’s best tourist spots, it’s hard to miss them – and to resist as well. We met with founders Maria Indah and Gregory Lentini, and asked them the important questions: what’s the secret recipe to a sustainable brand?

First thing’s first, why gelato? 

In Italy, each neighbourhood has a gelateria, while the choice was really limited in Indonesia at that time. Also, nobody was offering a gelato made with 100% natural ingredients. From that principle, Indah simply wanted to share this simple treat that always makes you happy on whatever moment you have. The endless summer in Bali is the perfect place to open our first gelateria. A good break from the heat of Bali. 

Also, Greg is rooted from Italian family. Even though he was born and raised in Nice, France, the homemade Italian food made by his Nona (grandma) has always been an important tradition in his family. Following his passion for Italian cuisine, he finally learned to make natural gelato to preserve the authentic way. This was done while still respecting the best local products that we can find in Indonesia to get the best result and taste. 

What were the flavours did you launch Gelato Secrets with? 

On 2009, we started from 12 flavours of everybody’s all-time favorites, like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mango, and coconut. After that, we wanted to bring some delicious and unique variants: tomato basil and chocolate chilli. From there, we have developed lots of nice uniqueones, such as caramelized tempe gelato, jamu sorbetto, rujak gelato, pesto gelato (with kacang kenari and locally produced parmesan cheese), kombucha sorbetto, and many more.

Why did you guys decide to do the Gelato Secrets Studio? 

Started with the joy of making delicious and unique flavours, we realized that this country has an abundance of great resources that we have to explore. In the process, we met with some inspiring people and organizations such as Slow Food, Kopernik, Tempe Movement, and many more. We’ve also crossed paths with local farmers who never give up to do their job and keep their family legacy, or some food producers who are passionate with their products. Names like Bambuku who produce Takesumi Bamboo Charcoal in Tegalalang to help a village who needed help after a big landslide, as well as fellow food enthusiasts that share their love for foods. 

From there, it has inspired us to create 100% natural gelato from scratch and use as many as local produce as we can. We also want to share our favourite taste from Italy by bringing the best ingredients  from there to recreate it in Indonesia. 

Are you guys planning to create or launch an intricate Gelato cakes design? 

Actually we already did years ago. Maybe, It was too soon because gelato concept was still new in Indonesia at that time. Since thent, we just have been doing it in our home kitchen for fun and only for our personal pleasure. We would love to share with our clients one day, but there are still issues to be solved and perfected.

How do you guys come up with new flavours? 

Easy, it always comes from what you love to eat . Our love for food and travel have brought us to different places in Indonesia and other countries, which help us to discover new tastes and ingredients. Our team members also like to share their passion for food and gelato too. We brainstorm, work on the ingredients sourcing and then the trial start. 

What flavour has been the biggest surprise for you guys in terms of popularity? 

Vanilla and Bamboo Charcoal gelato. We released it during the first Ubud Food Festival in 2015 and we were not sure how people will perceive. We just made small batch to try it out for the publics. Yet ever since, we are not able to remove it from our showcase in Bali and Jakarta. 

Obviously coming up with flavours must involve a lot of trial and error. What have been some of the errors?

Definitely we have learned a lot from our trials and errors. We make all our gelato and sorbetto from scratch and using only 100% natural ingredients which makes it challenging. For example, the cooking process of our salted butter caramel or honeycomb is easy to fail and along the way we had a lot of broken thermometers and burnt caramel! However the biggest challenge was three years ago when we worked together with some cacao farmers in Sulawesi to train them for producing good cacao beans. From that experience, we also learned a lot from the process and the difficulty to ferment and dry cacao beans in various climates in Indonesia (especially during rainy season and humidity problem). After that, we shipped the cacao beans to our studio and made a lots of trial to process them into chocolate to make our chocolate gelato. 

There are more stories about these turbulent times. But those moments are also the fun part and most valuable of the process. We learned how to pay attention to detail, it trained our patience and of course, the love on what you do will make difference on the product you make.

Is there any societal artisans project that you guys are currently supporting and why do you guys want to be part of it? 

At this moment we don’t have a particular project going on. We just try our best to keep supporting our partners, which are the farmers and food producers that we have been working together for years – especially during this difficult time. We believe that best products comes from best ingredients. To get best ingredients, we need to support them with fair price to allow them work as best as they can. 

What is next for Gelato Secrets? 

We try our best to bring more happy moments to our customers in Bali and Jakarta. Hopefully that we will be able to extend that to other parts of Indonesia as well. Apart from that, we always seek more ideas and inspirations to keep moving, improving and deliver great gelato as best as we can to all the gelato afficionados out there. 

And finally, cup or cone? 

Definitely Cup. It is the best way of eating gelato to get the real taste of its flavour and get the feeling of that smooth gelato texture and maybe with some surprises inside.

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