Former nurse starts ice cream venture at Bodnant Welsh Food in Conwy

A former hospital nurse has used flower power to launch a cool new business venture.

Debbie Leviseur has swapped scrubbing up to work in hospital theatres and running a fish smokery to take on a new challenge – devising flavours for ice-creams at Bodnant Welsh Food centre.

And the former hospital nurse’s latest inspirations are the fragrant rose scents of the world famous Bodnant gardens, plus honey from bees tended by the centre’s staff.

The rose-scented ice-cream is such as success with customers that she’s now hunting for ways of making other desserts with the flavour that can be created in the centre’s on-site dairy.

About to be launched is the honey ice-cream – made with honey created in hives at Abergwyngregyn, tended by staff from the National Beekeeping Centre Wales, which is part of the Bodnant Welsh Food centre site at Tal y Cafn in the Conwy valley.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre Managing Director Chris Morton is looking forward to trying the honey ice-cream, one of the perks of a job overseeing the £6.5m centre at Tal y Cafn.

“I’ve tried the rose scented ice-cream – it has a real taste of summer about it. It’s good to put the local milk to new uses such as this, and even better to be able to make use of locally-produced honey.

“Overall, 45% of all products sold in the shop are produced at Bodnant Welsh Food centre, and three-quarters comes from North Wales, including specialist foods from over 100 artisan producers,” said Chris.

Between creating hundreds of kilos of award-winning cheeses each week, using milk from a neighbouring farmer’s herd of Friesians, the dairy also makes butter and ice-creams, explained Debbie.

She was previously a hospital theatre nurse, before running a smokery in Shropshire and the Outer Hebrides.

“I wanted a flavour that was slightly different but also refreshing and could be served up in everything from a cone for children to the most up-market adult dinner party,” explained Debbie, who lives in Llanelian.

“On my day off I went for a walk through the gardens and was thinking about what my favourite scents and smells were –and then realised I was standing by the rose garden, with the first flowers coming out. That’s when I had the idea to try a rose scented ice.

“It took a few tries to get the balance just right, as it can easily become too sweet. But we balanced the milk and rose essence with the sugar and now the mix is spot on. It’s been one of our most popular ice-creams. It’s sold in cones at a take-way counter, in the tea rooms, the Hayloft restaurant – and the farm shop to take home.”

Every time Debbie enters the gleaming stainless steel dairy she has to scrub up and put on special overalls – not so different from one of her previous jobs.

“I first trained as a nurse, and worked in hospital theatres in Cambridge, so I’ve been used to very high levels of hygiene in the workplace for years. Later I set up a smokery business in Ludlow, and then moved to Scotland to run one there.”

Bodnant Welsh Food centre at Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, in the Conwy valley, has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation.

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