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Career

My name is Jessica Mentis and I am a jellyologist

Jessica Mentis designs jelly moulds, concocts recipes and has even given a beloved national dessert a modern makeover.

"My favourite jelly memory goes back to when I was a little kid and my grandma used to bring out her great book filled with pages and pages of delicious birthday cakes.
Every year she would ask me to choose one and I always wanted the jelly cake, but every year that cake was deemed too difficult − until my 10th or 11th birthday when she surprised me with the swimming pool cake!
I won't introduce myself as the jellyologist but I guess it's become a bit of an alter-ego.
It started as an Instagram project five years ago. When I was at architecture school I used to experiment with gelatine to make architectural models.
I don't know what compelled me to 3D-print a jelly mould every day for 100 days, but I had just moved back to New Zealand after living overseas and was at a bit of a loose end.
Jessica has created a sweet revolution with her jelly moulds and mixtures!
I had been working in the experiential advertising field, bringing brands to life with real-life experiences. That was where I discovered how to intersect the discipline of food and hospitality with creative thinking and architecture.
I knew I wanted to continue creative experiments so I did the moulds every day, set them with crazy flavours and posted them online.
About halfway through the project people became interested and then a friend who worked at Trelise Cooper asked, "Can you bring some jellies for her birthday?"
It very organically and quickly evolved into something more than an art project.
On my way to her birthday I thought I might need a name a bit more inventive than my original hashtag #100daysofjelly, so I came up with a new Instagram handle as I drove to the gig. I don't really know where it came from, but that's how the jellyologist was born!
The most successful mould out of the 100 days project was actually the one that's become our signature cone shape that we're now mass producing for supermarkets.
It's a small one that kind of looks like a witch's hat and is the perfect bite-sized shape. It's got just the right amount of wobble and jiggle so it's super fun and never fails to put a smile on people's faces. I classify that as a success.
It's probably also different to your classic 1950s jelly mould − a bit more contemporaryand stylistic. We did other ones also. They were more experiments than anything else and ended up in the sink, but I learnt a lot along the way.
Just desserts! Jessica's fancy jelly creations are used for all sorts of parties.
A few years ago I was commissioned to create famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the Great Wall of China, for a TV campaign. I went to Sydney and created these quite large replicas of buildings from around the world in yellow jelly. That was epic.
I also did a project − this is going back a long time − with the SPCA where we created gourmet cat jelly and all sorts of other fishy delights and did a campaign, which was fun.
We've also created a jelly bar, which we've used for samplings, weddings and parties.
As far as desserts go jelly is totally forgiving, which is why I think it's great to make with kids and older people − with anyone really − plus, our mixtures are really easy to use and make.
With the new flavours that we've produced too, it's now better for you because there are no artificial flavours or colours. I think jelly is better than ever before, but above all it's really easy and totally foolproof.
Jess' favourite mould is shaped like a witch's hat and is the perfect bite-sized shape.
Everybody asks me what my favourite flavour is and, I've got to confess, it's hard to choose −it's like picking your favourite child.
I like the boozy ones, espresso martini and Champagne raspberry. We've even got a classic one called Nan's Pav, which is based on a pavlova recipe, so that's pretty yum too!
I never tire of seeing people's reactions to jelly. Everybody seems to have a story, it's such a nostalgic dessert, and I think people really relate to the way we've kind of reinvented it and brought it into the 21st century.
It really does bring a little bit of joy to people and I guess that's what we're all about. It's pretty awesome to be able to bring smiles to so many people's faces."
My favourite time of year is...
Summer! Because it has beaches, barbecues, bucket hats, bikinis and lots of delicious summer fruits.
The best life hack I've discovered is…
I love surrounding myself with friends and family, in a home filled with trinkets and treasures collected from around the world.
The strangest thing in my handbag you'll find is...
A small jar of Maldon sea salt.

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