After Hours with Kari Nowiski of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

The senior buyer talks about her work at the artisanal ice cream company and shares her favorite Columbus haunts.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Kari Nowiski, senior buyer at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, has worked at the company since 2014.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams needs a lot of vanilla over the course of a year, and it’s someone’s job to figure out how much. That riddle, in fact, goes to the heart of Kari Nowiski’s job as senior buyer at Jeni’s—a job that requires a passion for food, spreadsheets and project management.

“When Jeni [or her team] creates a new flavor, I then go out and help find the perfect ingredients and find great suppliers, unless Jeni [Britton] already calls them out,” Nowiski says. (Another buyer focuses on dry goods like spoons, bowls and other merchandise.)

Growing up in a large family in Bristol, Tennessee, Nowiski developed a love of cooking and baking by age 4, helping her mom in the kitchen to “stir things and roll out dough.”

After graduating from Ohio State University, Nowiski’s first job out of college—in Jeni’s Grandview commercial bakery—set her on her career path in 2014. “I was making ice cream sandwiches. I made all of the Bramble crisp pieces for Brambleberry [Crisp],” she says. “I eventually got really good at doing inventory for the bakery. They took notice at the office and asked if I wanted to join the supply chain team.”

As senior buyer, much of Nowiski’s day-to-day is spent on forecasting, which boils down to: How much of an ingredient do we need to buy, and when?

Nowiski works with the Jeni’s sales planning team to understand how much, for example, Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream the company plans to make over the year, so that she knows how many strawberries and other ingredients she needs to purchase. She then gives suppliers like Mike Hirsch of Hirsch Fruit Farm the heads up that Jeni’s needs X thousands of pounds of strawberries in a specific month.

The job is “a lot of forecasting, a lot of math, a lot of price-checking and just supplier relations,” she says. “We’ll go out to our local dairy farms [or] our goat cheese partners, like Mackenzie Creamery [in Hiram, Ohio]. … It’s a lot of keeping in touch with folks, making sure we’re all on the same page, and we’re gonna get what we need when we need it.”

When she’s not working or volunteering through Besa, Nowiski loves cooking a wide variety of international cuisines at home and rarely repeats recipes. “I always love experimenting,” she says. Here’s where you might find her around town when she’s not in her home kitchen or sourcing Jeni’s ingredients.

Breakfast spot: “Katalina’s, hands down”

Hidden-gem restaurant: “Cravings Café and Goodale Station—both have phenomenal food and atmospheres.”

New restaurant or bar: “I’m loving Understory. The vibes are immaculate and the pierogies are top-tier.”

Favorite dessert (that’s not ice cream): “Any of the fruit pastries at Fox in the Snow”

Tired trend she wouldn’t miss: “Extreme/over-the-top foods: The idea of putting gold leaf on everything or an entire slice of cheesecake on top of a milkshake—I just think that level of indulgence is unnecessary and wasteful.”

Recommended reading: “Budmo! Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen” by Anna Voloshyna

Taco spot: “Los Guachos Taqueria. Truly the best tacos al pastor I’ve found in the Midwest.”

This story is from the January 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.