If you’ve never met Lokelani Alabanza or tasted her clever, unexpected ice cream flavors, you’re in for a treat. The launch of her plant-based ice cream brand, Saturated, is rooted in nostalgia. She has followed ice cream’s path through history and compiled an impressive collection of vintage photos and cookbooks, with a focus on its influence on African-American culture. And now, she’s turning them into a highly anticipated cookbook of her own. Get to know this inspiring FACE of Nashville!
Tell us a bit about your professional background — what brought you to Nashville?
I have been in the hospitality industry for most of my adult life. My first kitchen job was in Svendborg, Denmark, at the age of 18. After Denmark, I spent some time learning from one of my mom’s friends who taught Italian cooking classes. This led me to culinary school in Vermont. Going into the pastry realm was never something I thought would happen, and it turned out to be my calling. Eventually, I found myself in restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Eight years ago, a job opening as the Executive Pastry Chef at the Hutton Hotel brought me to Nashville.
Today, I am making, writing, and speaking about ice cream, along with finding different ways to bring the joys of ice cream to the world.
How did your ice cream brand, Saturated, come about?
We started out as a plant-based CBD ice cream brand. It came to fruition quite a few years ago — the idea of nostalgia was always part of its foundation and that ice cream is intersectional. How can you create something delicious without dairy, knowing that plant-based products are the future of food? How can you tell stories? How can you talk about history? The summer of 2020 is when it all started. The first few years were exciting and overwhelming. I learned A LOT of valuable lessons. Mostly, the lesson of saying “No!”
What is it about ice cream that drew you in?
I always say that it found me. Sort of like Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece meets the Big O.
What is your first childhood memory of ice cream?
The ice cream truck. You could hear it all the way from the back of the house. It was a truck filled with candies and ice cream, and I could not wait to give the driver my money.
The title of your new book is still under wraps — but how is it going?
It has been a really incredible and challenging experience. Since my early days of culinary school, I always dreamt of one day writing a cookbook.
What makes your ice cream stand out among the rest?
I am very proud of the ice cream — each flavor has its own intention and story. The most fascinating part is how it makes others feel. You cannot buy that. That moment when food nostalgia awakens a sense. It’s truly incredible.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor you’ve ever made? How about the most challenging?
One of my favorites is the Magnolia and Geteme Honey. You can never be sure how something will turn out or how others will respond to it. This one is magical in so many ways. A more recent challenging flavor was a course for a recent ice cream social dinner. One of the courses was inspired by my friend Sophia Rea of Projet Chocolat. We talked about Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and scents. In the end, I was challenged to make a cigar-flavored ice cream for the first time. Somehow, it came together.
What is one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t have a sweet tooth.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
Outside of faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
What’s the last best book you read? Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley was very complex, raw and emotional. So good.
What destination is at the top of your bucket list: Oaxaca
Favorite hidden gem in Nashville: Bay 6 Cocktail Bar
Best local place to shop for birthday gifts: I always love going to Welcome Home. You can always find something unusual and fun.
Most underrated ingredient in ice cream: Marshmallow Cream
To learn more about Saturated ice cream or place an order, send Lokelani a direct message on Instagram!
Images courtesy of Emily Dorio.
Nashville women are doing inspiring work. Meet more of them over at our FACES archives!