Over her 18-year career, Publican pastry chef Dana Cree has wondered what awards and media mentions convince customers to actually come in and visit a restaurant. Cree will find out in July when she and Bang Bang Pie’s Michel Ciapciak plan to open Pretty Cool Ice Cream, her new Logan Square dessert shop. The opening happens after Cree took home another award — over the weekend she found out that her cookbook, Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, won the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals award in the Single Subject category.
The Publican also took home an IACP honor, as Paul Kahan and Rachel Holtzman’s Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall won the award in the Chefs and Restaurants category. Cree, who will leave The Publican at the end of March to concentrate on Pretty Cool, spent 18 months writing her book which shows home cooks how to create professional-caliber ice cream. She’ll have to re-engineer those recipes for the shop to take advantage of professional-grade equipment. Cree’s creations in the book include “carnival corn” (toffee, caramel corn, popcorn ice cream) and bubblegum (banana, vanilla, orange, and lemon). Customers should expect similar flavors at the shop. One flavor that likely won’t appear at Pretty Cool is Malört. Don’t scoff: Cree has actually made ice cream with Chicago’s patron bitter liquor.
“I want this to be a place you grow up going to,” Cree said. “After Little League, if you get an “A” on a report card...I grew up doing these things.”
Ciapciak, known for his two Bang Bang Pie locations is partnering with Cree. When customers visit Pretty Cool, they’ll be able see the ice cream equipment through windows. Motorists and pedestrians should also be to see through the windows passing by. Inside, there will also a ledge so children so they can better see all the action. Pretty Cool will also feature bleacher-type seats. Tumu Studio, whose projects include work on the Chicago Riverwalk, is designing the 850-square-foot space with a double storefront at 2353 N. California Avenue. They’re in the demolition stage right now.
Cree’s local work experience includes stints at Alinea, Avec, and Blackbird. Those venues aren’t exactly known for catering to children, but Cree her ice cream shop will “whether you’re a child of 65 or a child of six.” She mentioned how her shop could be an ideal place for a school field trip. They’ve been testing out some ideas on Ciapciak’s four children. For example, there will be a children’s hand-washing station outside the bathrooms. Pretty Cool is a separate entity from Bang Bang, Cree explained. While there may be room for “flavor inspirations,” don’t expect synergy between the two brands.
The book award brings a bit of vindication for Cree as a writer and as someone who was shopping her manuscript to publishers before she had her own ice cream brand. She credits the book’s lack of a condescending tone and the way it addressed the science of ice cream. The art, from Anna Posey (Elske), also helped.
“People should not wait for my ice cream shop to open,” Cree said. “They should grab the book and try their hands at it themselves.”