Rabia Kamara vies for ice cream glory on Ben & Jerry’s-inspired Food Network show
Aug. 18, 2021 - Leila Ugincius
Rabia Kamara is on a roll.
Less than a year ago, the Virginia Commonwealth University graduate opened her first brick-and-mortar ice cream parlor in Richmond’s North Side. It was November — not the best time of year to sell frozen treats — and the middle of the pandemic, when many other restaurants were closing for good. Yet opening day saw her shop, Ruby Scoops, with a line of customers wrapped around the block.
Now, Kamara is going head-to-head with five fellow ice cream innovators in a national competition to create the next flavor for Ben & Jerry’s.
On “Clash of the Cones,” which filmed earlier this summer and premiered Monday night on the Food Network, the contestants are first charged with resurrecting a “dearly de-pinted” classic from Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard. That was the easy part. They then were tasked with impressing the judges and special guest Kevin Bacon by creating a new flavor on the spot, based on the actor’s likes and dislikes and featuring no more than six ingredients.
Actually, that part was easy, too, Kamara said.
“As ice cream makers, our minds are always kind of churning out ideas,” she said. “Any time that I got a prompt, my brain would automatically start to roll and think of different ideas. I have always been trying to trust my instinct as I've grown up, to go with my gut. … As things moved forward, I was like, I can really do whatever I want and I should take advantage of that.”
But what was challenging and the “least fun,” she said, was trying to make ice cream outdoors in the Vermont heat.
“It was wildly hot,” Kamara said. “It's hard to make ice cream when everything around you is really hot.”
Kamara wound up winning that first episode with a banana-dark chocolate-and-peanut butter-inspired flavor. In addition to Bacon, celebrity guests on the four-episode first season include rapper/actor Ludacris and Food Network stars Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman. One contestant will be eliminated each episode until three remain. The finalists will have to impress the ultimate ice cream connoisseurs, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, creators of such confections as Half Baked, The Tonight Dough and New York Super Fudge Chunk.
“Being able to be a part of this competition and being able to experience it as a competitor was a huge deal,” Kamara said. “And getting to meet my competitors and seeing how other ice cream minds work — because we all made such vastly different things. And that was really cool because I've kind of been living in my own ice cream bubble. … So to meet five other people that also make ice cream, that all make ice cream differently, that all have different philosophies of what they enjoy about what they do, that was really cool.”
Ruby Scoops, at 120 W. Brookland Park Blvd., is open Wednesday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. New episodes of “Clash of the Cones” air Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on Food Network and discovery+.