A taste of Italy from the Hamptons

Deborah Gorman, BFA ’02

Deborah Gorman, co-founder of vegan ice cream company Sorbabes, was inspired to choose her career path after traveling abroad to Italy while a student at Washington University. (Photo: Rob Brown)

Deborah Gorman, BFA ’02, never studied writing, but she definitely has a way with words, especially when describing the flavors of her vegan sorbet brand, Sorbabes. “Peanut butter banana is one of my favorite [flavors] because I’m a huge peanut butter fan,” she says. “We make a peanut-butter-banana base, and mix in a fudge ripple with salted peanuts. When you eat it, it has layers of peanut butter, then you get the sweet banana, then chocolate fudge, and crunchy peanuts at the end. For me, flavors have to have a trajectory.”

While some have described Sorbabes as the sorbet equivalent of Ben and Jerry’s with their chunky mix-ins, Gorman and Nicole Cardone, her business partner, know they have something unlike anything else on the market. “I think a lot of people like our sorbet because it’s very complex. It has layers of textures and flavor that no other sorbet in the market has,” Gorman says.

While Cardone has the business background, Gorman is the creative developer. She oversees production, researches and develops new flavors, designs all of Sorbabes’ visuals, and manages marketing. Sorbabes started from a little farm stand in the Hamptons, selling its pints for $14 just to cover the cost of materials. People would line up for blocks to buy it, and that’s how Gorman and Cardone knew they could launch this product to be something more. And they were right. Currently Sorbabes is sold in grocery stores throughout the country and online at foodydirect.com.

Gorman's Favorite Frozen Treats

Jeni’s Ice Cream (Columbus, Ohio)
“I’m really inspired by her flavor combinations [and] her cookbook. She’s definitely been one of my role models in the ice cream world. [Cardone and I] always joke that if Jeni had a vegan sister… We’d be it.”

Salt & Straw (Portland, Oregon & L.A.)
“Fun ice cream place on the West Coast.”

Big Gay Ice Cream (New York City & Philadelphia)
“They do really wonky flavors.”

Cool Haus (Los Angeles)
This place offers “fun all-natural ice cream sandwiches with really different flavors.”

Forty Carrots (New York City)
“I remember going when I was younger when my mom would take me shopping. We’d always go to Forty Carrots and get the tart frozen yogurt; it’s so good.”

Gorman’s passion for food started when she spent a semester in Florence with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. She admired the way Italians enjoyed life and how sacred their mealtime culture was. There she fell in love with gelato, sorbet and other fine foods.

After receiving her undergraduate degree in advertising and graphic design in 2002, Gorman spent three years in advertising, but decided that wasn’t for her. She was itching to work with her hands. She decided to go back to Italy, this time to Milan, to understand herself better through culture and food.

“WashU made me challenge the way I perceive the world,” Gorman says, “[to] look at things differently and come up with creative solutions to problems.”

She came back stateside and began to pursue her culinary passion by cooking for some of the best restaurants in New York. With that hands-on training, she became a private chef for families in the Hamptons where she met Cardone through a client. The two had a passion for healthy eating (Gorman eats vegan 95 percent of the time) and how it could impact the world.

“I see all these artificial colors, all these ingredients that I can’t pronounce, and I’m just like ‘This is ridiculous, we shouldn’t be putting these things in our body.’ For Sorbabes, it’s about celebrating the ingredients, not trying to fake ice cream,” Gorman says. “When we created our product, we asked ourselves, ‘How do we make the ingredient list as simple as possible and feel really proud of every single ingredient we put in there?’”

With a variation of different frozen treats in mind, a desire to create new flavors and thoughts of a cookbook or brick-and-mortar store, Gorman and Cardone are on the path to success, giving people a healthy yet deliciously indulgent alternative to ice cream.

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