Little did Doc Brown know, but his 22-year career with the Phoenix Police Department may have paved the way for his life as the owner of Doc’s Artisan Ice Creams.
Brown got the nickname “Doc” during his early years on the force when fellow officers learned of his extensive background in science and technology. Before moving to Arizona, he spent 12 years working as a petroleum geologist in Louisiana and Texas. The nickname stuck because it fit his style as a police officer: inquisitive, tenacious, attentive to detail.
Those same qualities have helped bring him sweet success on the ice-cream beat.
Brown’s family-run ice cream shop is only three years old, but it has garnered attention start-ups rarely enjoy. Doc’s ice cream was named “Best Ice Cream in Phoenix” by the Phoenix New Times in 2014; it has wowed attendees at the Devoured Culinary Classic—Phoenix preeminent food festival—two years in a row; it is the ice cream of choice for some of Arizona’s top resorts and restaurants, and it was served to NFL players and owners during Super Bowl festivities in 2015.
Not bad for an ex-cop whose motto when he started his business was, “just say yes and figure it out.”
“I retired on February 28, 2013,” Brown said of his departure from the Phoenix PD. “On March 1 we were doing demolition in our new space. I couldn’t wait to get started.”
While his shop is still fairly new, Brown is no stranger to the kitchen. During his years on the force he’d cook for his fellow officers and even had a small catering business. He considered opening a restaurant after retirement, but after conferring with a few chef friends he ultimately decided on ice cream.
“Once I made the decision, I was all in,” he says.
Brown honed his ice-cream-making skills by taking classes around the country. He started in 2007—six years before opening Doc’s—and went on to take several classes a year. One year, he even invited his then-84-year-old father to join him.
“We did a three-day course in Florida, and he had a ball,” Brown says. “Today, he does everything we do here. From fruit processing to keeping the machinery clean, he takes care of it.”
While Doc’s serves artisan ice cream, the business is known for its gelatos, sorbets and frozen pops—all made with natural and organic ingredients.
“You won’t find refined sugars, GMOs, gluten, dyes, artificial ingredients, preservatives or eggs,” Brown says. “Pretty much anything someone would consider an allergen, we’ve removed from the product.”
And when it comes to developing flavors, Brown believes in an “out of the box” way of thinking. He serves as many as 95 flavors throughout the year, and most are not the sort you’ll find in your grocer’s freezer. The extensive list includes such selections as ancho chile, mango habanero, salted caramel and coconut lemongrass lime. The latter is the most popular item on Doc’s menu.
“When I’m developing flavors, I’m looking at food first—what flavors work or what can work together, and then we go from there,” says Brown, who has been inspired by fruits from different corners of the world.
“We do a Middle Eastern-inspired honey saffron gelato, as well as a flavor made with mamey sapote, a high-fiber fruit from the Caribbean,” he says. “I’m also working with soursop, a South American tropical fruit that has beneficial qualities.”
Many of the shop’s diehard fans stop in for the frozen pops, which run the gamut from raspberry Chambord to coconut passion fruit mango.
Brown admits that when he started his business, he didn’t know how things were going to go. But he vowed he would be prepared for anything and not back down if road took a rocky turn. Just like a good cop.
“Admittedly, there were a lot of things I didn’t—and still don’t—know,” he says. “But what I do know is my craft.”
About the author: Michelle Jacoby
Michelle Jacoby is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bite, an online magazine about eating, drinking and wandering in Arizona. Before entering the world of food-centric publishing she spent 13 years as a writer and editor at The Arizona Republic. She attended Arizona State University and has lived in the Phoenix area for 25 years.
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