Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Lalele Organic Gelato - Founders Nathan & Mulan
Six years ago, Auckland was blessed with the launch of one of New Zealand’s finest ice cream vendors - Lalele Organic Gelato. Owners Nathan Gutsell and Mulan Zhang’s colourful gazebos and caravans serve deliciously creamy gelato, sorbet, cocolato and vegan popsicles made from organic ingredients. It all began with a surf trip to Noosa where Nathan practically lived off ice cream and came home dreaming of making his own. He shared his newfound passion with wife Mulan, who encouraged him to give it a go and the business was born.
Even before starting Lalele, Nathan and Mulan were no strangers to the food scene. Nathan trained as a chef at Auckland Hotel and Chef’s Training School, while Mulan has been cooking since she was 8 years old. Their experience certainly shows in the quality of their product and knack for flavours. Before opening Lalele, Nathan and Mulan were growing watermelon and selling it at markets. After a crazy couple of nights selling mini watermelon and ice cream at Auckland Lantern Festival, Nathan and Mulan decided this was the way to go. The pair jumped straight into things, purchasing all the necessary equipment, installing a commercial kitchen and experimenting with different recipes and flavours. It took Nathan and Mulan a year to source the organic ingredients and perfect their formula, but one taste of their creamy, dreamy gelato proves all that hard work was worth it. Lalele specialises in flavours you might not associate in gelato yet that work so well—think avocado, coconut and French tarragon popsicles or their most popular rosemary, raspberry and coconut vegan gelato.
Lalele Organic Gelato has done pretty much every street food event imaginable over their six years trading but a few stand out as special. Nathan and Mulan love trading at WOMAD festival each year, despite the logistical nightmare of transporting a caravan full of gelato all the way from Auckland to New Plymouth! The customers there really understand and appreciate the hard work the team put in, making the nonstop queues and crazy hours worth it. Nathan and Mulan also enjoy community events like Coatesville Market and the AFTC events which allow them to get out to different neighbourhoods and build a strong customer base all over Auckland.
Despite sticking it out for six years, Nathan and Mulan are honest about the fact that food truck life is not all it’s cracked up to be. Getting a mobile food business off the ground is much harder than people expect it to be and raising enough start up capital proved to be a huge challenge. Understanding the rules around the manufacture of food and ensuring their business complied with it was far more complex and time consuming than Nathan and Mulan anticipated. While people often look at the huge crowds Lalele draws at events such as WOMAD, the fact remains that street food is an unstable form of income. It demands your nights and weekends, which is difficult at the best of times but even more so if one has children, as Nathan and Mulan do. For this reason Lalele is a real family affair and you’ll often see their kids getting involved in the business. Providing a quality product means that after the cost of ingredients, fuel, insurance and much more there isn’t as much room for profit as many would imagine. Lalele faced one of their toughest moments to date last winter when they crashed their caravan. As always, they faced this hurdle with practicality and determination and managed to keep trading from their other outlets.
As well as their caravan which trades all over Auckland, Lalele has a permanent gelato and smoothie bar inside the Catalina Bay Farmers Market which serves their goods every weekend, year round. They’re currently in the process of constructing a gelato truck and planning a move to a bigger production kitchen. Nathan and Mulan don’t let the cold stand in their way and will be serving up their incredible gelato all winter long. With all organic ingredients and plenty of vegan and dairy free options, you can feel good about ordering a double scoop! Follow their journey on their Facebook page so you know where to find them.