Queen of Cream’s Cora Cotrim reveals the worst ice cream flavor she ever made

Plus 12 other things we learned about the ice cream shop’s cofounder

13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Cora Cotrim is the cofounder of Queen of Cream.

Cora Cotrim Queen of Cream
Photograph by Jeff Kaplan

How did you start making ice cream?
I knew I wanted to be into food, but I didn’t want to be a line cook who is always working too hard and sweating and getting home at 1 a.m., so I got into pastry. It just came naturally, and everything I made was pretty good. But the first batch of mint chip ice cream I made was icy and lame. It was the one thing that didn’t come out pretty good immediately, and that’s kind of how it became my thing. Then I got an ice cream machine and a ton of books and that was still complicated. It took nine months to really get it together. When I started making it for Paper Plane, I knew I was selling it and stepped up my game. Even here now, we’re constantly tweaking recipes.

What’s the worst flavor of ice cream you’ve ever made?
I made vegan banana with a cashew milk base and bananas. It wasn’t just that it was grainy, but it turned out a gray cement color. It was just unappealing to look at.

What do you do when you aren’t making ice cream?
I cook a lot. I just read cookbooks and do a lot of meal prepping. I love the Prune cookbook. I’m getting back into the Jerusalem cookbook. I like to eat a little bit healthier, so I do vegetable-heavy meals and keep the protein pretty simple. Outside of food, I read the New York Times all day long and listen to podcasts. I love the Cherry Bombe podcast; it’s a magazine for women in food, and they have a great podcast.

What was your first job?
Working at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in Alpharetta when I was 13. I think I lasted six to nine months. Someone was stealing money from cash register, so they fired everyone. I’ve had only restaurant jobs since.

If you weren’t making ice cream, what would you be doing?
I would own a plant shop or gardening shop. I’ve always been really good with planting and growing. There’s a bunch of plants at the shop that I’m constantly taking care of.

What do you miss most about your home country, Brazil?
I haven’t been back since my grandmother passed away in 2002. I moved here when I was nine. I miss my immediate family but not so much the hundreds of cousins. I miss the lifestyle. I miss the chill atmosphere with a lot of vacations. I miss the idea of it, but don’t really miss it.

What’s your fast food guilty pleasure?
The Albert has great chicken fingers.

What was the first thing you ever baked?
A chocolate cake for my friend’s birthday when I was 19. It took forever. I overbeat the hell out of the cake, so it just became so tough. It was the worst cake ever. I took it to work, and somebody else bought my friend an ice cream cake. Nobody ate my cake, but everyone ate the ice cream cake. I was so sad.

What was the last TV show you bingewatched?
Stranger Things was a fun show.

How much ice cream do you eat a week?
I have a mini hot fudge sundae once or twice a week.

Where was the last place you traveled?
Charleston, about a month ago. It was a super quick two-day trip because my parents were getting a house on Kiawah. We just ate really well. My boyfriend works for Minero, so we had the chance to eat at Husk and McCrady’s. I hadn’t had a coursed meal like that in a while, and it was exceptional.

What’s one thing you wish you knew how to bake?
Any type of bread. I’ve made a few sourdoughs, but it needs so much precision and dedication.  You kind of have to do it every single day for a long time, and I’ve never had the time to get into that.

You used to work at Victory and Paper Plane, so do you have a preference between beer, wine, or cocktails?
I am a wine person. I drink based on season: whites and rosé in the summer and reds in the fall and winter. I like heavier, dirtier reads, like Côte du Rhone. For white, I prefer more rounded, juicier wines with not so much acid. I love going to Cakes & Ale and Empire State South.