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A Sweet Job

The Early Show: Ice cream, flavored syrup, nuts and fruit could only be the recipe for an ice cream sundae.
CBS/The Early Show
There's nothing to beat the summer heat like a nice bowl of ice cream.

But a select few are able to taste the cold treats almost every day and get paid for it.

The Early Show Correspondent Melinda Murphy got to do just that, for one day at least, with world-renowned ice cream taste-tester John Harrison.

Since William Dreyer and Joseph Edy opened their first ice cream factory in 1928, Dreyer's has always been on the cutting edge — Rocky Road was a Dreyer's original

And, today, it is Harrison's job to make sure Dreyer's ice cream lives up to its legacy.

"In my 21-year career, I have tasted and approved over 200 million gallons," said Harrison.

Harrison is the company's official taste-tester, with a golden spoon and a golden tongue, which is insured for $1 million.

Of course, there is a lot riding on his tongue.

To protect his tongue, Harrison avoids garlic, onions, pepper and anything else that would be extremely heavy.

But just think what he can eat.

He invited Murphy to dip a finger in a pool of pure fudge and give it a taste, and she says it took every bit of self-restraint not to dip her whole arm into the sweet stuff. Murphy also sampled some ice cream on the assembly line.

Harrison samples 60 packages a day of finished Dreyer's products — usually tasting four to five hours a day.

But he doesn't just eat ice cream to taste it. There is a method to his tests.

He says he starts his taste test with the lightest flavored ice cream first. Then he follows the master taster's special technique that he calls the "Three S's."

Harrison swirls, smacks and spits.

"You don't have to swallow to taste," he explained.

To the dessert's fans, it may seem wrong to spit good ice cream. But for Harrison's job, it takes endurance and stomach to continue tasting.

Murphy decided she wanted to do more than taste the ice cream. She ate more than 20 scoops of the dairy sweets — a scoop for every flavor — on her day as a taste-tester.

Children are regular visitors at the plant, learning to smack ice cream flavors, such as cookie dough, rainbow sherbet and bubble gum, like the experts.

Harrison's favorite flavored ice cream is more traditional.

"You still can't beat a good bowl of vanilla ice cream," he said.

Vanilla is America's favorite. But cookies and cream, fifth on America's favorite ice cream list, is Murphy's much-loved dessert.

Containers of cookies and cream were among 1 million gallons sitting and waiting to be consumed in a room that's -20 degrees F. The cold didn't seem to affect Harrison.

"Sixteen percent butterfat in my veins," he explained.

Harrison doesn't have too many bad days at work.

"A bad day is that I found too many pecans in the butter pecan," he laughed.

Just about everyone in John Harrison's family — from his great-grandfather on down — has been in the ice cream industry. Maybe eating ice cream is in his genes. And, Murphy said, if she ate ice cream like he does, the cold treat would be in her genes.