Brad Keywell

Dr. Irwin Adam Eydelnant: 4 Insights from the Mind Behind the Museum of Ice Cream

Dr. Irwin Adam Eydelnant, Founder & Creative Scientific Director of Future Food Studio and BEVLAB, is changing the way we think about food.

Among the long list of his accomplishments - including a master’s in chemical engineering and a PhD in biomedical engineering - Irwin has built edible clouds, dancing soup, helium-filled sugar balloons, a banana-based frozen dessert company in the Middle East, scent sculptures, and a Sensorium at the Toronto International Film Festival.

He’s probably most well-known as a the creative scientist and founding partner behind the Museum of Ice Cream in, which started in NYC as an idea between friends for a small pool of sprinkles and turned into an international phenomenon. Countless instagram posts and 3,000 square feet later...An entire 363 cubic foot swimming pool was filled with sprinkles, along with edible balloons, a Chocolate Chamber, and even a visit from Beyonce and Jay-Z. Irwin helped with the launch of the Museum in LA, and the exhibition has now traveled to Miami and will be in San Francisco starting May 30th. Hundreds of thousands of people have streamed through the immersive experience to celebrate both ice cream and play; but they’re hard to come by, as tickets have been sold out for months in each city.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Irwin, AKA the “modern-day Willy Wonka of Toronto”, on my podcast The Upside. I enjoyed hearing from someone who has let his curiosity and thirst for the uncertain guide him. To hear the entire episode with Irwin and others, subscribe to The Upside on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your other favorite podcast player.

Irwin has a fascinating story, which also includes - and is somewhat defined by - a near death experience.  He certainly didn’t follow a prescribed path to get where he is today, but the insight he’s picked up over the years is definitely worth paying attention to. See below for a thoughts from our talk. 

Insight #1

“Explore, explore, explore, explore, explore, explore. Do everything you can possibly do.  I really do believe -- the more things you can accumulate experientially, it quickly helps you evaluate what's possible in the world.”

You have to create your experience to become experienced. Irwin has been educated at McGill, Harvard and the Ecole Normal in Paris. He has worked in branding in NYC, in an Algerian salt manufacturing company, and at a soft-serve shop in a mall in Winnipeg. These experiences have both opened up incredible opportunities for him, but also helped to shape and define how he approaches the possibilities in life.

I’ve recently been thinking about my own path. I’ve founded a number of companies in Chicago, including the Industrial AI firm Uptake where I am currently CEO, but also Groupon, Echo Global Logistics, Drivin, Innerworkings, etc. All of these experiences have helped me to develop a firm belief in the power and value of data, analytics and workflow optimization; regardless of the industry. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but many patterns emerge from the diversity of experiences I have had in business.

Insight #2

“There’s something magical about having an idea. But there is also something magical about having the right people bring it to life.”

It’s easy to have an idea, to brainstorm and come up with a grand concept. It’s infinitely harder to see it through and actually bring to fruition. One of the coolest things about Irwin is his story about starting Future Food Studios after recovering from a car accident that could have left him paralyzed or dead. From his bed, he grew the team to 16 people.

Insight #3

“At our studio, Future Food Studio, I have some fundamental tenets.  And one of them is
‘Proto fast, learn fast.’ I want to see the prototype as soon as you tell me the idea. Like now.  There's no reason to wait.  And put it together with sticks and tape.  I don’t care what it looks like.  I need to understand the prototype.  I need to see it in the world.  I function through tangibles.  I need -- I'm an engineer. I'm kind of practical that way.”

Death of an idea by meeting or talking or thinking too much. That is inertia. Irwin’s philosophy resonates with me and how I like to run a business or a team; I’m visual and results-oriented. You’ll never know all the facts, best case scenario is you know 70% of them when you make a decision to move. The most important skill-set for success then becomes flexibility and iteration. 

Insight #4

“There are no rules. I realized no one else actually knows what they're doing, so they're just conforming to a lot of pathways that have been already set.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about rules for an upcoming commencement speech that I am giving...And I believe there are rules (or as Irwin puts it, conformed pathways) but they are meant to broken or ignored. The most incredible achievements have always come from someone who questioned the status quo.

Irwin is one of the rare people who has found a way to blend passion with career. Only the lucky few can say the same for their accomplishments. He is disregarding the limitations that society has placed on food, on experiences, on being human. I’m lucky to have him as a friend, collaborator, and co-conspirator, and I think it is time to get him to Chicago for some immersive and experiential fun...Oh, and his favorite food? Blueberries.

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© Brad Keywell 2021