Hawai‘i Gelato Maker Will Compete in the Gelato World Cup as Captain of Team USA

Il Gelato owner Dirk Koeppenkastrop will travel with the rest of the 2016 Gelato Team USA to Rimini, Italy to compete in the biennial competition this month.
Here’s what Gelato Team USA did in 2014. It included (from left) a gelato cake, a chocolate sculpture and miniature chocolate gelatos.
Photo: Courtesy of Dirk Koeppenkastrop


You thought the World Cup was every four years? Try every two. The Gelato World Cup, that is, and it’s way more exciting than soccer, especially since the captain of Gelato Team USA is Hawai‘i’s very own Dirk Koeppenkastrop from Il Gelato.


This month, the team will travel to Rimini, Italy for the seventh edition of the competition, also known as Coppa del Mondo della Gelateria. Fourteen countries will compete, including Morocco, Singapore, Australia and Italy, which won the grand prize in 2006, 2008 and 2012.


“Team USA has done pretty OK in individual disciplines, but … we’ve never made it to the podium,” Koppenkastrop says, noting that Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Argentina and Spain are all very skilled gelato makers. “We definitely have the ambition to shoot for the podium and would be happy if we can make it under the first five.”


Koeppenkastrop was chosen to be Team USA’s gelato maker in 2013 because of his background in physical chemistry (he has a Ph.D. from UH and studied gelato-making in Bologna, Italy, at an actual gelato university.) After the last competition, in which the international jury commended the team for having some of the best tastes and textures in the mystery round, he was selected to be captain. “Being a team captain involves more of a management role,” he says, including everything from securing sponsorship funding to organizing trainings and submitting dozens of pages of recipes to the judges.


Team USA’s gelato cake from the Gelato World Cup in 2014.


“Last time, I convinced the team—selfishly, I must say—to use ‘the aloha spirit’ as the theme,” Koeppenkastrop says, though it didn’t go as well as he hoped. Exotic flavors—coconut Maui rum chocolate, KonaRed chocolate—were lost on some of the judges. “So this time we selected a theme which was more in line with what is getting a lot of points in competition. We picked ‘fire and ice’ based on the poem by Robert Frost. And so now the ‘fire and ice’ theme is basically in all of our elements (visual, taste, texture), in all our presentations, so it’s obvious.” The team will have to portray its theme in seven different tests of the competition: a decorated sundae, a gelato cake, a presentation using ingredients from a mystery box, miniature chocolate gelatos, an entrée with savory gelato, a croccante sculpture (made of nuts and sugar) and an ice sculpture, and a final grand buffet of everything. Koeppenkastrop says their work this time will be more complex and dimensional, and involve more teamwork.


The other members of the team are:


• World champion ice carver Chris Foltz, a culinary instructor at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute. He’s a three-time ice-carving and four-time woodcarving champ.

• Lead team pastry chef Michele Pompei, a baking and pastry instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Art in Seattle.

• Team pastry chef Tim Brown, a baking and pastry instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

• Team manager John S. Hui, a corporate pastry chef from California who co-founded Gelato Team USA in 2005 and also competed with Koeppenkastrop in 2014. (Fun fact: Hui did a stint at the Westin Maui in the late ’80s.)


The Gelato World Cup takes place at the 37th Sigep International Exhibition of Artisan Gelato, Confectionery and Bakery. Koeppenkastrop believes it’s a great opportunity both for the exposure—hundreds of thousands of people will make their way through the expo—and sponsorship opportunities (he’s already thinking about 2018). Catch him at Il Gelato’s Hale‘iwa shop, refining his chocolate recipes, in these final weeks before the competition.


Stream it live Jan. 23–25 at en.coppamondogelateria.it, and follow along with Gelato Team USA on Facebook and  Instagram.