Austin gelato maker readies to take on world wide competition

Matthew Lee is going toe-to-toe with about 20 other international gelato makers in three weeks but, fortunately for the Austin business owner, he has got a few tricks up his sleeve.

Lee opened Teo Espresso, Gelato and Bella Vita 12 years ago in Austin after training in the art of making gelato in Italy. He is the only American gelato maker to make the final stage of competition.

"It's a huge accolade," Lee said. "It's an endorsement of our quality and all our hard work and passion for great ingredients. When I started this business 12 years ago, what I wanted is to provide great product with great ingredients and offer Austinites a delicious product."

The flavor that helped Lee qualify is called Nut, a peanut butter and Nutella-tasting treat. However, Italians do not really care for peanut butter, he said, so Lee is changing up his strategy with a new flavor called Texas Pecan Pie.

Texas Pecan Pie will combine Texas whiskey and pecans that Italians and competitors from other countries are not able to experience.

"We're going to be an outlier. We're not going to be offering something that everyone else has done. Pecans are native to Texas and they don't have them in Italy," Lee said. "They're already excited about the whiskey and the pecans. I've already talked to some Italians and they love the idea. It's either going to be super popular or super unpopular."

Lee will head to Italy for the Gelato World Tour competition August 31. He said he is arriving before the judging starts so he has time to perfect his recipe using Italian milk and cream instead of American ingredients.

The competition will take place September 5-7. No money will be awarded to the winner, just the claim of having the best gelato in the world.