Q&A With the Co-Owners of Stella Jean’s Ice Cream in Costa Mesa

A conversation with Gan Suebsarakham and Steven Torres, couple and co-owners of Stella Jean’s
Q&A With the Co-Owners of Stella Jean’s Ice Cream in Costa Mesa
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What are your roles?
Steven: I handle the day-to-day operations, from staff culture to quality control. It’s an all-encompassing role. Gan focuses more on the chef-y stuff: research and development and creating new and exciting experiences with our flavors. And together, we have a vetting process. I think we balance each other really well.

How did Stella Jean’s start out?
Steven: Gan would always mention, “If I had an ice cream shop, I would make this flavor and this flavor.” And I just told him, “Well, why don’t you open an ice cream shop?”

What makes your ice cream unique?
Steven: I think our ice cream evokes memories from childhood or certain experiences that people can connect to.

Gan: I always like to throw in some Southeast Asian touches—that’s my style.

What keeps you inspired?
Steven: We’re fans and cheerleaders of other concepts. We’re always looking for cool new spots and (figuring out) how we can stay exciting and relevant. Fifty Licks in Portland stands out as well as Molly Moon in Seattle, which really pioneered specialty ice cream.

Gan: Whenever we travel, we always look for local coffee, pie, doughnut, and ice cream shops.

What’s a flavor on the menu that best represents your heritage?
Gan: Mango sticky rice.

Steven: Guava and cream cheese.

Do you have a favorite step in the production process?
Gan: Spinning the tub while the ice cream is coming out of the machine and adding the mix-ins. It’s magical.

Are you a cup or cone person?
Gan: Cup and spoon.

Steven: Waffle cone and no spoon.

Favorite thing about opening in O.C.?
Steven: How loyal people are once they try our ice cream. They’ll bring all their friends or order 10 pints.

Favorite ice cream memory?
Steven: When we first met and were still just friends, we would get ice cream together and chat.

Gan: The flavor was always dragon fruit pineapple sorbet.

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