Founder and CEO, Malai Ice Cream
Jun 14, 2022
Pick any flavor at Malai, the Carroll Gardens ice cream parlor that’s among the very best in New York City, and founder Pooja Bavishi can tell you a story about it, usually involving a childhood memory: Her parents immigrated to North Carolina from Gujarat, northwest India, though these days they live in Brooklyn.
Although Bavishi is a determined entrepreneur — a graduate of both the London School of Economics and NYU’s Stern School of Business, who turned a makeshift booth at the Hester Street Fair in 2015 into a beloved operation that ships nationwide — the ice cream at Malai remains deeply personal, with each of the nearly 50 flavors a way for her to explore, preserve and celebrate her Indian heritage.
“Every single flavor at Malai is sparked by a memory of India,” Bavishi told the India Food Network last year. “We have a carrot halwa flavor and that’s inspired by my dad, who loves the Indian sweet. But he will only eat carrot halwa with a scoop of ice cream. Obviously, I needed to create this flavor. We also have a sweet corn saffron, and that references my memories of eating the makai do sheero halwa that my [aunt] used to make.”
In addition to making excellent ice cream (and baked goods; do not sleep on her Gulab Jamun Ice Cream Cake), Bavishi embraces her role as leader, collaborator and mentor. “Being a woman of color in any leadership position presents additional obstacles and setbacks than what one might otherwise face,” she told Gothamist when the parlor first opened. “Every step that we take legitimizes Malai even more, and it makes us a more established player in the ice cream world and in the New York food scene. Which is important for me and for other women who might follow.”