After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in business management economics in 1991, organic ice cream connoisseur Dave Kumec moved to Paris. There he excelled as a chef and pursued culinary graduate work before moving back to Santa Cruz in 1995. Kumec spent a number of years in the high-tech business before opening his very own organic ice cream business, Mission Hill Creamery, in downtown Santa Cruz’s Culinary Center in July 2010. Kumec was forced to close the storefront in 2011 after a dispute with the landlord, and has since spent his time building Mission Hill’s wholesale business, selling organic ice cream and sorbet pints at business like Whole Foods and New Leaf Community Markets across northern California. A new Mission Hill Creamery location is set to open its doors this summer in downtown Santa Cruz.
CHP: What is your background in the food industry, and what got you interested in making ice cream?
Kumec: I worked my way through restaurants and have held every position from dishwasher to owner. I did an apprenticeship in Paris when I was 18. I like the satisfaction I see in a customer’s face when they try something good that I make, and ice cream is one of the best ways to get that satisfied reaction. Plus, I don’t cut and burn myself as much when I make ice cream.
CHP: You’re a UCSC graduate from the class of ’91. What brought you back to Santa Cruz to start your business?
Kumec: When I graduated UCSC, I got married and moved back to Paris as an opening chef for the new EuroDisney resort, but eventually I missed Santa Cruz too much and we had to come back. I spent from 1995 to 2008 in high-tech, but I am very passionate about ice cream and organic food, so I decided to follow my passion.
CHP: Mission Hill Creamery serves organic ice cream. Where do you source your products and how do you carry out this organic process?
Kumec: Sourcing the finest ingredients is a vital process. We source fruits, nuts and other produce from local farms whenever possible. There is no local chocolate, coffee or vanilla, but we still seek out only the finest organic varieties.
Organic ice cream is better because it doesn’t include any of the processed stabilizers, emulsifiers and gums practically all other ice creams contain. We like simple, clean, robust-flavored ice cream. When you compare our ice cream against the competition, there really is no comparison.
CHP: What prompted you to reach out to local markets, and eventually markets all over Northern California, to sell Mission Hill products?
Kumec: We really started out with the idea to have a nice little ice cream shop. However, we have had a lot of “bumps in the road,” including losing our store on Front Street. We have needed to adapt, and during the time when we didn’t have a store, we decided we could keep the brand alive by selling wholesale. Our first wholesale customer was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and that was a huge home run for us. Then it was Staff of Life, New Leaf, etc. Now we are in over 30 stores in nine counties around the San Francisco Bay Area.
CHP: There are a lot of ice creameries in downtown Santa Cruz. How do you plan to differentiate Mission Hill Creamery from these other businesses?
Kumec: It’s true that Santa Cruz has a lot of good ice cream places these days. Our goal is to be the best. We make a very consistent, creamy and delicious product that highlights our artisan skill. And we are not afraid of flavor, ensuring every bite of Mission Hill Creamery ice cream is bursting with that perfect balance of flavor and texture. We welcome you to try our ice cream and compare it to the other stores in town.
The New Mission Hill location will open this summer at 1101 Pacific Avenue, Suite B.