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More Celeb Chefs Embrace Quick-Service
Former Top Chef contestants partner with Marble Slab.
Carla Hall, Jeff McInnis, and Fabio Viviani create ice cream flavors for Marble Slab

With the start of summer almost here, many of us have spent the final days of spring frantically cutting down on calories and toning-up in preparation for beach season. But while it's true, the bathing suit can prove an unforgiving garment, it's important to remember with the longer days and heat also comes deserved fun and lazy indulgence. And besides, don't you deserve a treat for all that hard work you've put in at the gym?

Marble Slab Creamery seems to think so. The international dessert hub, known for its premium hand-mixed ice cream and innovative slab technique, introduced three signature sundaes to its menu this spring in collaboration with Top Chef alumni Carla Hall, Jeff McInnis and Fabio Viviani.. Already reputable names in the culinary world, each chef has designed sundaes unique to their personal styles and flavors to celebrate the start of summer. The end result is a range of epicurean treats sure to satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. Patrons are encouraged to try all three and determine their “top” choice, proving once again the competition never really stops.

Hall created a decadent sundae with black cherry ice cream on a bed of brownie with hot fudge, whipped cream and dark chocolate M&Ms. “The brownie was my starting point,” she says. “I'm a sucker for ice cream and anything cakey with it. I added the hot fudge and dark chocolate M&Ms for texture and more chocolately goodness.” Chef Hall, owner of the increasingly popular Alchemy Caterers in Washington D.C., credits Top Chef with taking her small boutique catering company to new professional heights and described the partnership with Marble Slab as a compatible one. “I'm doing work with brands that I care about and can easily stand behind.”

Equally inspired by chocolate, Chef McInnis built a deluxe double dark chocolate ice cream sundae, complete with hot fudge, caramel, and topped with whipped cream and nuts. “When I think of ice cream, I tend to think chocolate,” he says. “And Marble Slab's dark chocolate ice cream is so rich and creamy I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with it.” McInnis, currently chef with the Ritz Carlton in Miami and author of the forthcoming book The Natural Course, says working with Marble Slab is a natural fit. “Its products are made with fresh ingredients and the brand uses local farms and cows. I have the same philosophy.”

Much to the delight of unrelenting weight-watching consumers, Italian chef Fabio Viviani took the less-is-more approach, devising a light vanilla ice cream sundae with fresh blueberries and granola. He says his sundae reflects his creative process, “Keep it simple, keep it easy.”

Viviani, a partner and the executive chef at Cafe Firenze in southern California, says since his appearance on Top Chef his restaurant continues to thrive and he's enjoying the opportunities (like working with Marble Slab) that come with national exposure. “I have a new book coming out, The Cafe Firenze Cookbook, and another later in the year.”

Viviani, like fellow former Top Chef alum Richard Blais, is open to more alliances within the quick-service industry. “As long as it's a quality product that meets quality standards.”

Viviani, like fellow former Top Chef alum Richard Blais, is open to more alliances within the quick-service industry. “As long as it's a quality product that meets quality standards.”

The celebrity sundaes promotional is indicative of larger marketing goals on part of Marble Slab Creamery and its managing company NexCen Franchise Management, Inc. Jenn Johnston, senior vice president of brand marketing for NexCen, says the company is attempting to reconnect with its chef-driven roots through a rebranding initiative that will also include a new store design, Web site design, and product packaging. “We haven't been touting our quality message as much as we should over the years, and we want to be sure that all consumers understand the care we put into our ice cream,” Johnston says.

Founded in 1983 by the two chefs responsible for creating Marble Slab's unique ice cream formulation that prides itself on fresh dairy and carefully chosen ingredients from around the world, Johnston said the collaboration with former Top Chef participants was an instinctual step in this direction. “When we consider our roots, it seemed natural to work with high-caliber chefs to develop inspiring artisan ice cream treats.”

Marble Slab Creamery's celebrity sundaes are currently available nation-wide through Labor Day and should the sticky treats prove a hit with customers they might just find a permanent home on the menu.

Lakiesha R. Carr covered the industry's attempts to reduce sodium levels for