6 June 2024

Five minutes with Massimo Bernardini, Gelato Man, Helensburgh

| Graeme Burrill
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Massimo Bernardini with a gelato.

Massimo Bernardini from Helensburgh’s Gelato Man. Photos: Graeme Burrill.

Who are you?

I’m Massimo Bernardini; I’m a gelato maker, pastry chef and owner of the Gelato Man business.

How did you start Gelato Man?

Gelato Man first started as a mobile business. We were making gelato and we had a couple of portable carts which we used for weddings, corporate events and parties. We used to do a few markets as well in the beginning. We’ve been doing this for maybe eight years now. During COVID we couldn’t do any of those jobs, so we decided to open a shop in Helensburgh, where we live and where we actually make our gelato. The gelato carts still continue and have been successful over the past year.

What do you love about gelato?

It’s a very satisfying kind of food. When you have gelato, it’s like having a sleep, in the sense that in the 10-15 minutes that you enjoy the gelato, there’s no worries, all your cares go away. It gives you a moment of happiness!

How did you learn how to make gelato?

I went to a hospitality and cooking school (similar to our TAFE) in Italy for five years as my mum had a restaurant. I’ve been in the food industry since I was 14, but I didn’t learn until I was actually here in Australia. I did a course specialising in gelato making in Melbourne, run by a famous gelato chef. After I completed the course, I went to work for him for almost two years, before I started myself.

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Why did you come to Australia?

I came here after I was working at the time in Italy. I was 28-29 and I did a job for a friend and he paid me pretty well. So, with the money I had I was going to go for a trip for three months to Australia. So, I came here for three months and ended up staying for a year and in the meantime, I met a girl and the rest is history.

What’s the process to make gelato and how long does it take?

The machinery we’ve got now is quite big, it makes 10 litres every time. First you have to mix it, then cook it, except for the fruit. Fruit is nicer when it’s fresh.

For the milk side of it, everything has to be cooked – not like an oven; it’s a pasteuriser, a big tank where it gets mixed. There’s emulsification, where it’s cooked up to a high pasteurisation at 85 degrees, but then taken down to four degrees (fridge temperature) then in the fridge for at least two hours – much better if it stays overnight to rest. Sort of like when you make pizza dough.

All up, overnight – 12 hours, then you can take it out, prove it and it comes out as gelato.

Do you have a favourite flavour?

I don’t know – a lot!

Do customers give you suggestions on what to make?

Yes, all the time. We’ve got a quest to satisfy everyone.

Gelato shop

The Gelato Shop at Helensburgh.

What’s your weirdest flavour combination?

You’ll be amazed, the crazier you go about it, the better it is.

You always try to make people have two flavours, because it’s much better to combine flavours, one is a contrast of the other one. But at the same time, it actually binds in a way that makes it a highlight. Say like chocolate and passionfruit for example; you can combine chocolate with any fruit.

Along with gelato, you serve coffee at your shop?

It goes very well if you want to have an affogato – which means “drown” in Italian. You drown the ice cream into the coffee.

When someone comes to Gelato Man, what are your hopes after they leave?

Every gelato shop anywhere you go in the world, you will never find the same flavour and taste; each one is characteristic and typical of where you get your gelato from.

We make our gelato in a way that is unique to us and that’s why we always hope people enjoy it, gelato the Helensburgh way. We try to have customers come back because they like our gelato.

Do you eat gelato at home?

We’ve got three kids, and they eat quite a lot of it.

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Do they give you feedback?

Even when I do flavours that don’t come out right, they’re very picky. They say that it’s not very good or it’s very good.

Any combinations you’ve tried that haven’t worked?

I’ve tried many. Even if you change the ingredients, it can compromise the whole flavour.

You and your family live locally here in Helensburgh – what do you love about the area?

It’s like my shop – it’s very unique. I don’t think there’s anywhere like Helensburgh.

You never know, there probably is, but you can be far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and at the same time you’ve got so much nature here to enjoy, plenty of bush.

The ocean is just down the road, so if you like these kinds of things, it’s perfect. And for families, for kids it’s a very good area to grow up in, a good community.

Do you enjoy making gelato?

Yes, it’s very interesting work, there’s a lot of chemistry involved into it. You have to work out all the formulas and it’s a nice thing to do, to put a smile on kid’s face, it’s very satisfying.

Gelato Man is located at 7B Walker St, Helensburgh. They’re open from 12 pm until 8 pm Thursday to Sunday. Keep up with them via their website, Facebook page and Instagram.

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