Getting Paid to Eat Ice Cream is One Sweet Job

By Megan Trent

May 23, 2012 Updated May 23, 2012 at 7:42 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - How would you like to earn a living tasting ice cream? As the official taste tester for Edy's Ice Cream, that's exactly what John Harrison has done for decades.

Harrison was in Fort Wayne Wednesday to dip into the plant's sweet treats and celebrate the 30th anniversary of his own flavor creation, Cookies 'N Cream.

"My job early in the morning is to test all the ice cream that was produced yesterday, before it's gone out to the grocery store and market," explains Harrison.

He evaluates the appearance, flavor, and texture of about 60 packages of ice cream every day. His taste buds are so refined that Edy's had them insured for $1 million.

"Flavors should be creamy and smooth. That flavor should be even; not spiked with something artificial or lack of flavor," says Harrison.

The master taster carries around a gold plated spoon for dipping into the delicious desserts. "Silver tarnishes, and that will give an off taste. Wood and plastic give an off taste, so the best medium is gold plated."

There's also a specific way of tasting ice cream so that it reaches all 9,000 taste buds. Each have receptors that sense bitter, sweet, salty, or sour flavors. "Take a small scoop right off the top. It doesn't take much. Invert the spoon, because that's the warmest part - on top. Put it upside down, Now, you're going to do three things; you're going to move it around, swirl it around the whole tongue, the whole mouth, and then ariate it."

Samples that don't measure up to Edy's standards are sent to local food banks. Nearly half a million gallons are donated each year, says Harrison.

It's a lifestyle, he says. "I avoid such things as onions and garlics and peppers and anything that's very, very spicy." He also doesn't drink alcohol or smoke.

The best temperature to eat ice cream at, he says, is between five and ten degrees. So, let the ice cream sit out for a few minutes before taking a bite.

Harrison has been in the industry for 55 years. It runs in his blood from his great grandfather on down. In 1880 his great grandfather owned and operated two ice cream parlors. His grandfather owned the first dairy co-op in Tennessee. His father owned a dairy ingredient company, and his uncle owned an ice cream factory.

Harrison became a formulator, working with ice cream companies in North and South America. He went to work for Edy's 31 years ago, and 30 years ago he even invented the popular Cookies 'N Cream ice cream flavor.

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