This story was updated at 10:38 p.m. on Sept. 8, 2021, to include comments from Rabia Kamara
Rabia Kamara, a Silver Spring native who owns an ice cream parlor in Richmond, Va., won the $20,000 grand prize on a reality show competition Monday night.
Kamara was one of three finalists who competed during Monday night’s episode of The Food Network show “Ben & Jerry’s Clash of the Cones.” The show features ice cream “masters” competing against each other for a $20,000 prize and a featured spot in a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop or event in the winner’s hometown.
Kamara, 32, started her business, Ruby Scoops Ice Cream & Sweets, more than six years ago as a small-batch operation in Washington, D.C.’s Union Kitchen, according to her LinkedIn profile. Previously, she attended the Montgomery County cooking institution L’Academie de Cuisine, which has since closed.
Kamara told Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that she got interested in cooking around age 8, when her mom gave her a Mrs. Field’s cookbook.
Kamara, who is Black, said working with celebrity chef Carla Hall, who also is Black, early in her career was an inspiration.
“She was the first person I saw on TV who looked like me cooking, so it definitely played a role in me deciding to pursue this career,” she said.
Kamara has worked at a number of D.C.-area restaurants, including 8407 Kitchen Bar, Addie’s, Blacksalt and Republic Takoma, some of which have since closed. It was during her time as a pastry chef at Republic that Kamara wanted to pursue ice cream as a business.
“There was a family that had two daughters that we served ice cream, three scoops to a serving,” she said.
Each of the girls was supposed to get one scoop, Kamara said. But it didn’t work out that way.
“One of the little girls got distracted by something, and the other one ate both of their ice creams, which led to her having a meltdown, which reminded me of those times in my childhood. In that moment, I decided I wanted to be a part of those moments for families to come for a long time,” she said.
Since November 2020, Kamara has operated her brick-and-mortar store in Richmond, which has been successful, she said Wednesday.
In April, she interviewed with The Food Network for a spot on “Clash of the Cones” and was accepted within a week. Filming took place at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont the following month, she said.
Kamara said that one of her favorite activities on the show involved “resurrecting” a flavor from Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard — a term referring to flavors no longer served by the company, that have become “dearly de-pinted.”
“That was cool because it was all six of us [contestants] and we got to see how everybody approached ice cream,” she said.
In the finale, the three remaining contestants each created their own flavor.
Kamara’s winning entry on “Clash of the Cones” was “Bia’s Black Joy Sundae,” consisting of salted malted Dulce de Leche, vanilla with dark chocolate fudge brownie chunks, blondie brownie chunks and “seafood seasoning caramel,” according to the Food Network’s blog.
Kamara explained on Wednesday that the flavor was meant to represent her identity, both as a person of color and as a Marylander.
“Growing up as a Black person in this country, I’ve experienced a lot of joy, but also a lot of sorrow because of the way that this country has been set up for us to not necessarily succeed. So, a big part of why I make ice cream is to create sweet memories through sweet treats, but it’s particularly important that people who look like me get to experience a few moments of just joy and peace with ice cream,” she said.
The Old Bay-flavored caramel represented the Maryland aspect of the sundae, Kamara said.
The winning ice cream entrepreneur thinks there is something about the dessert that is universally part of the human experience.
“Ice cream is forever, and we get attached to it at a young age,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org