1 March 2021

"Thank you for the happiness you brought us": Canberra mourns Mr Frugii

| Michael Weaver
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John Marshall, aka Mr Frugii, holding one of his hand made ice creams.

John Marshall, aka Mr Frugii, has been described as a passionate man who revolutionised Canberra’s dessert scene. Photo: Supplied

Roasted garlic ice cream, pistachio and cherry essence, spearmint and salted caramel – these were the ice cream flavours that will live on with the memory of the man known as Mr Frugii, John Marshall, whose death at age 62 was announced by his family on the weekend.

Tributes have poured in for the ice cream magician, who began experimenting with unique flavour combinations in the basement of his family home.

Mr Marshall’s love affair with ice cream began more than 20 years ago when he left his IT job and bought a classic two-litre ice cream machine from the old Italian deli in Narrabundah.

He and his wife Ed opened the Frugii Dessert Laboratory in Braddon six years ago and it’s renowned as the go-to location for the best ice cream in Canberra.

One of the many tributes read: “Every special occasion in Canberra was celebrated with a trip to Mr Frugii and every problem, from homesickness to heartaches, was fixed by it. Thank you, John, for all the happiness you have brought us and so many others over the years.”

“Your hand made ice creams revolutionised the dessert scene in Canberra,” said another.

Mr Marshall’s ever-changing array of unusual offerings included gin and tonic icy poles and bergamot-flavoured sorbet.

John at the coffee machine at Frugii’s Dessert Laboratory in Lonsdale Street Braddon. Photo: File

He was also passionate about Canberra. When Kochie’s Business Builders recognised the Frugii Dessert Laboratory as the eighth-best ice cream shop in Australia in 2017, John was thrilled about being listed in the top ten.

“I’m wrapped that we’ve been recognised in the article, especially because it mentions that we’re in Canberra,” he said.

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Mr Marshall made a Vegemite ice cream in celebration of Australia Day following the announcement that the brand would return to Australian ownership after being purchased by dairy company Bega.

He’s also created beer-flavoured ice cream for Canberra’s Beer Day Out along with butter chicken, seafood laksa and other flavours for special occasions.

John Marshall

John Marshall was known as an ice cream magician. Photo: Supplied

John started out taking his ice cream to local restaurants to taste test and orders slowly rolled in. Frugii ice cream became a Canberra cult classic and a regular fixture at local markets, while products were also stocked at select IGA stores in the ACT.

John completed professional gelato courses but said when it comes to creating flavours, he was mostly self-taught. Commercial courses taught students how to make ice cream using pre-made bases, which John never did.

When he first started experimenting with flavours, he set up his own chemistry lab.

“I started off by buying a couple of packets of pre-mix and analyzing their pH, sugar levels and all that,” he told Region Media in 2015.

“I bought some kits and looked at the percentages of the milk powders, and from there I started reading books on professional ice-cream making and reading up on different types of sugar and what they do. Sugar’s not just for sweetening; it’s really there for its anti-freezing properties.”

Ed and son Leon have left a heartfelt tribute to “a great husband and father” on the Mr Frugii Instagram page.

“We will cherish our memories of John, from his inventive and high-spirited antics through to his legacy of Frugii Dessert Laboratory.

“We are overwhelmed with (the) outpouring of love and respect shown to us. Thank you.”

John’s wife Ed and son Leon have requested privacy at this time.

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Such sad news to hear of the passing of someone that has brought such happiness to so many! Condolences to his family at this tough time!

John, thank you for your kindness and generosity. You embodied the spirit of Canberra. When my husband was sick you’d drop ice-cream off for him at the hospital. A few weeks after he passed you hosted us in your magical laboratory as my daughter celebrated her 6th b’day – a true Willy Wonka ice-cream making experience. We didn’t know you well but you were compassionate and gave us the gift of joy. Thank you. I can only imagine what decadent desserts you’re crafting up there now – the sky’s the limit xo

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