By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Debby Wolvos
Helen Yung is both the co-owner and designer of all things decadently
delicious as executive ice cream “chef” at Sweet Republic.
You are a native of Hong Kong. How did you make your way to America?
I left home at 15 years old to attend boarding school in New Hampshire. I then stayed stateside to study finance and accounting in college. By the time I was in my early 20s, I was working in investment banking, learning quickly that to be successful you have to be hungry. I was … but for actual food.
How did you make the switch to
In 2001, I met my eventual business partner Jan Wichayanuparp, who was also in finance. Foodie soul mates, we shared many great meals in New York while bemoaning our profession of choice. After 9/11 rocked us, Jan moved to Bangkok and I to Tokyo, both still in finance. I eventually enrolled at La Cordon Bleu in Australia. Once I graduated (and SARS hit Asia), we made our way to San Francisco, initially considering opening a bakery.
That must get us to Arizona – and Sweet Republic?
Almost! In 2007, while I was working in a San Francisco kitchen, we visited Jan’s sister, who had moved to the Valley with her husband. It was clearly a foodie town on the verge, but rife with franchises. We made the decision to do something small, focused and sweet in Scottsdale. Given the year-round weather, ice cream was a natural fit. We opened in May 2008.
What makes your ice cream so special?
We invest in good machinery. Our gelato machines cost twice as much as my car! We also use local ingredients and make our own base, which is labor-intensive but gives us a flavor all our own.
What are some of your most unique flavors?
Don’t miss out on coconut curry cashew, jalapeno avocado, sweet corn, or blue cheese and date options!
Sweet Republic Scottsdale, 9160 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale; 480.248.6979; www.sweetrepublic.com.