Technically speaking, Vancouver, Canadaâ€”not Italyâ€”is home to the World’s Best Gelato. As in, officially. That honor comes courtesy of gourmet confectionary Bella Gelateria, and you can thanks the brains of the operation, James Coleridge, for delivering the bragging rights.
Not only has Vancouver’s favorite maestro gelatiere been named one of Canada’s Most Influential Food Artisans, but he also wears a world title. Just last year, his Pecan and Canadian Maple Syrup Gelato took top honors at the world-renowned Florence Gelato Festival. Coleridge beat out 30 competitors for the People’s Choice Award and also earned the Gold Medal for technical skills.
A Canadian snatching the gold for gelato-making in the birthplace of gelato sent ripples of shockwaves across the culinary community. Rumbles of expansion and a wildfire of enthusiasm has followed him ever since. But it seems to have come as no surprise to Coleridge, who claims gelato found him (not the other way around) nine years ago, when he got married in Venice. One taste and an obsession was born. After completing a yearlong course at Carpigiano Gelato University in Italy, Coleridge opened Bella Gelateria, and, as his sweet-toothed customers and fans can attest, his passion is authentic and infectious.
“I’m going to tell you something very important. There is a number you need to know about. It’s a very important number…are you ready for this?” asks Coleridge, pausing a beat for effect. “There are only 86,400 seconds in every day; that’s all you get. You can’t extend that by even a second. So believe in yourself, go out into the world, and make a difference.”
“Making a difference” is nothing new to the Vancouver confectioner. In his lifetime, he has successfully pursued many passionsâ€”as a bakery owner, art gallery owner, and even as a film producer in Los Angeles. But it is gelato that is bringing Coleridge burgeoning fame and fortune across the globe.
“I started out very young and hungry in this industry,” he says, likening his trajectory to that of David versus Goliath, and adding. “Now my footprint has gotten pretty big.” And though his success and reputation have grown at a rapid rate, what has not changed is Coleridge himself, or his vision.
The Bella Gelateria team uses classic Italian equipment to create and sustain a revolving menu of about 30 different flavor profiles. The menu rotates in and out based on seasonal ingredients, the weather, customer requests, and Coleridge’s personal whims. He doesn’t cut corners on quality, ever. Pure, fresh gourmet ingredients, hands-on craftsmanship, and an unwavering commitment to “the heritage and ancestry of Italy” go into every batch, says Coleridge. The confectioner calls himself a “custodian of Old World art” that is being lost in a landscape of rock-bottom ingredients, artificial flavours, and machine-manufactured product. To thine own vision be true is also part of his mission.
“There’s a message bigger than gelato here,” he says. “It’s about believing in your dream and making it happen. Try to be the best every single day and take nothing for granted. Go make mistakes, take a riskâ€”fail. Don’t worry; we’ll pick you back up.”