An ice cream chef from Miami is one of six ice cream masters from across the nation chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to create an original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor of their own.
This week, watch as Dasher & Crank owner Daniel Levine competes on the Food Network's new prime-time competition series, Ben & Jerry's Clash of the Cones. Over the course of four episodes, Levine will compete for a chance to impress Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and win the grand prize of $20,000 — the exact amount Ben and Jerry hoped to make in their first year of business.
The winner will also have the opportunity to have their flavor sampled by fans at an event in their hometown.
It would be a dream come true for Levine, who tells New Times he almost didn't return a call from the Food Network.
"One of my employees received a cold call at the shop and I was convinced it was a scam," Levine shares. "I thought twice about calling back, and it turned out to be a scout from the Food Network who had been looking for the best ice cream shops across the country. It was pretty crazy — they interviewed me several times to see if I'd be able to compete and that I was up for the challenge."
Levine was, in fact, up for the challenge. Along with his fellow competitors, the Miami-based entrepreneur traveled to Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont where they were tasked with a series of challenges to create their own take on original Ben & Jerry’s flavors based on inspiration from some of the biggest stars on the planet in food, music, and film.
The series premieres with a special 90-minute episode at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 16, on the Food Network and Discovery+.
Over the course of four episodes, host Molly Yeh challenges the ice cream makers to capture the essence of a celebrity or pop-culture icon in a new and innovative ice cream flavor. In each episode, the competitors use a specially constructed ice cream lab on the Ben & Jerry’s factory grounds. After concocting their creations, competitors hit the streets to have the public vote their favorite flavor, with the winner earning immunity from elimination.
At the end of each episode, judges Jet and Ali Tila, alongside Ben & Jerry's "flavor guru" Chris Rivard, determine which competitor to send home — and which flavor goes to the infamous Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard forever.
"It was really eye-opening partaking in one of these challenge shows," Levine says. "They really are incredibly challenging, and you really do only find out what you're doing until the moment the clock starts — and they don't give you nearly enough that you need."
Levine says that crafting a new ice cream from start to finish is typically a two- to three-day process. On Clash of the Cones, he had three hours.
In the premiere episode, competitors are challenged to start their journey at the end: They must resurrect a flavor from the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard to use in their creations. Actor Kevin Bacon is the first to offer a challenge, requesting that competitors make a flavor in his name that incorporates up to six ingredients.
"I was putting the final touches on my ice cream as they were counting down the final few seconds," Levine says. "He gave a really great challenge that allowed us to really show our creativity. I can't say more, so you'll have to tune in to see what I did."
Other episodes feature the ice cream makers creating flavors inspired by Ludacris’ favorite desserts, along with making classic ice cream sandwich cookies from scratch. And see what happens when the competitors base their ice cream flavors on Food Network stars Buddy and Duff. In the finale, the final three ice cream masters meet the legends, as Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield reveal the final challenge. All the competitors need to do is follow the Ben & Jerry’s way: Be creative. Have fun. Make great ice cream. May the best flavor win.
In Miami, Dasher & Crank has been known as a hub of ice cream innovation, creating chef-driven, artisan ice creams. Levine's Wynwood shop, which opened in 2016, has created more than 500 flavors, with new ones added each week. Bold and eccentric varieties include "Ube Macapuno" (purple Filipino yams with coconut jelly) and raspberry wasabi sorbet, as well as an assortment of vegan options.
Moving forward, Levine says he's inspired to offer even more creativity.
"What's next? Expect a bunch of great collaborations and partnerships, more flavors, and more holiday-themed ice cream," he promises.
Ben & Jerry's Clash of the Cones. Premieres at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 16, on the Food Network and Discovery+.