Food has always been our binding tie - food and our girth; We were the slowest, fattest kids in gym class

Ben Cohen, 44, was born on Long Island. He went to university in New York, but dropped out in 1972. After a string of jobs, including being a cab driver, he opened Ben & Jerry's first ice-cream shop with Jerry Greenfield in 1978. Separated with one daughter, he lives alone in Vermont. Jerry Greenfield, 44, was also born and brought up on Long Island. Having graduated from college in Ohio, he failed to get into medical school. He worked as a lab technician in New York before co-founding Ben & Jerry's. Married with one son, he lives near Ben Cohen in Vermont.

BEN COHEN: I met Jerry running around the track in seventh grade gym class. We were the two slowest, fattest kids in the class. I liked him because he was funny and smart, and you could count on him. One of the first things we did together was go on a long bike trip. We took a tent and camped out, which was lots of fun.

When we were seniors in high school, we used to drive around in our cars and listen to our stereos. As we were both fat kids, we didn't have too many girlfriends. We used to eat a lot, and dreamed of cruising Sunrise Highway - the big street in Long Island - and eating at all the fast food places along it.

After Jerry graduated from college he came to live with me in New York. He is good to live with, except that he always maintains that I'm the sloppy guy, and that he just lowers his level of cleanliness to meet mine. He also snores and tends to go to bed early, but has the consideration to sleep with his pillow over his head.

In New York Jerry and I were the two ne'er-do-wells of our crowd - all our friends had real jobs. Jerry wanted to be a doctor but was rejected by all the medical schools he applied to. I wanted to be a potter, but, after going to a lot of craft shows and trying to sell my pottery, I realised that nobody was ever going to buy it. In the past we had talked about opening a restaurant, but never seriously. Appreciating that we needed to do something, we started considering the idea for real.

We talked to people who knew about the business and they said that restaurants were always going out of business, and we would have a better chance of success with a limited menu. So we looked around for something that was popular. Bagels and home-made ice-cream were starting to happen in the big cities, but we couldn't decide which to go into. One day we went into a place selling used restaurant equipment, and we worked out that it would cost $40,000 to get into the bagel business. We figured ice- cream had to be cheaper, so we took a $5 correspondence course in ice-cream technology and started making ice-cream in our kitchen.

Jerry and I were living together in Saratoga Springs, New York, at the time, and originally that's where we planned to open our ice-cream shop. Somebody beat us to it, so we left town and ended up in Vermont. There we started our first ice-cream parlour with $6,000. We were each supposed to have saved up $4,000. Jerry saved up his but I only got to $2,000.

We bought a dilapidated gas station with holes in the roof and renovated it ourselves. Every afternoon the local newspaper sold off sheets of aluminium used in the printing process for 10 cents each. We tacked the sheets over the holes and then smeared roofing tar over the cracks. For the first spring, summer and winter the roof was fine but the following spring - with all the freezing and thawing - the roof started leaking. Because there was still snow on the roof we couldn't fix it, so we rigged up this big sheet of plastic under the ceiling. The drips formed a big pool and then drained through a hole in the plastic into a tray on top of a ladder. A hose took the water from the tray to a sink at the back of the gas station. That's kind of how the whole place worked.

Jerry was the chief ice-cream maker and I was the chief crepe and soup maker. As you can see, the soups and crepes were a lot less successful than the ice-cream. I wanted to have really big chunks of cookies and candies in our ice-cream, which meant we couldn't have many chunks. Jerry wanted to have a lot of smaller chunks. Finally, we compromised on a lot of very big chunks, to the joy of our customers and the consternation of our accountants.

When we first started, it was just a lark. We never expected to have anything more than that one home-made ice-cream shop, but now Jerry and I are millionaires - on paper. Our relationship hasn't changed at all: we still hang out at each other's houses and we still like to eat. Food has always been our binding tie - food and our girth. Two or three times a week we go out - anywhere from trendy restaurants to Papaya King, which is a stand in New York where you can get two hot dogs and a papaya drink for a $1.95. We are both still chubby, although I think lately Jerry is the more rotund.

To me Jerry personifies the company. He has an incredibly warm, caring personal style, and he spends a lot of time with our employees. He came up with the idea for the "joy gang", a group of employees who think of ways for people to have fun while they are working. We have had clash- dressing day and Elvis Day, when everyone dressed as Elvis and Elvis impersonators showed up. Barbecues are organised, and a massage programme has been instituted whereby professional massagers come by and rub people. Jerry is more involved in the joy gang than I; but I eat as much as I can and get rubbed as often as I can.

JERRY GREENFIELD: Ben and I met when we were 13 years old. We were the slowest, fattest kids in gym class. Everybody else was running around the track, way in front of us. The coach was yelling at us and Ben was yelling back; I thought that was extremely entertaining. Ben and I grew up in the same town and had similar backgrounds: my father was a stockbroker, Ben's was an accountant. The main difference between us was that I always followed the rules and did what I was supposed to - Ben was the kind of guy who didn't do his homework and didn't even offer an excuse.

When we got to high school Ben organised his own religion, which was pretty interesting. It was called "Cruxism", because we had a history teacher who kept talking about the "crux" of everything. Ben was chief of this tribe which consisted of two people, him and another guy. They used to make sacrifices to the great god Crux - burnt offerings of pork chops and things. I wasn't actually a member of the tribe, but, as a friend of the tribe, I went along.

After high school I went to college in Ohio and Ben went to college in upstate New York, but he dropped out. He came to visit me in Ohio and never went back. He lived in my room and sold sandwiches in the dormitories at night. After a month Ben went back to New York and enrolled in a programme called "University Without Walls", which was very unstructured and progressive. He didn't actually have to go to class, the world was his campus - but he dropped out of that, too - too much structure for old Ben.

After I got out of college, I went to live with Ben in New York. We have lived together several times and the one thing that annoys me about him is that he likes to take off his shoes and rub his feet together. Another thing about Ben is that he can't smell that well. We had a toaster which didn't pop up automatically and he could never smell when things were burning.

Ben had various jobs in New York - he was a cab driver, a short-order cook and a craft teacher. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer, but he had no interest in that whatsoever - he wanted to be a potter. I wanted to go to medical school but, after I was rejected, I became a lab technician.

When we were 25 we realised that we'd like to do something where we could work together. Since we'd always liked to eat, we thought we'd do something with food. We took a correspondence course in ice-cream technology. They sent you a text book and at the end of each chapter there was a test. You were allowed to look up your answers in the chapter and then you mailed them to your professor who graded them. Naturally we got 100 per cent in all the tests - at last we had found a type of education that we really excelled at.

In 1978 we bought the gas station in Vermont which became our first ice- cream parlour. It was a wreck: we fixed it up ourselves and did it very inexpensively. We had tables inside and out, a self-playing piano, and we made the ice-cream in an old rock salt freezer in the front window.

We liked to think the place had a lot of character, which is a nice way of saying that it wasn't much to look at.

When we started the business it was a lark. We used to say we'd do it for a few years and then become cross-country truck drivers. Neither of us had much interest in accounting and we didn't make any money for the first three years. One day we took a day off to see if we could discover why we could barely pay our bills. We figured out that we were scooping too much into the cones. If you over-scoop by just half an ounce your profit is gone.

The business started growing one winter, when nobody was buying ice- cream cones because it was minus 20 degrees. We bought an old ice-cream truck and started to deliver to local restaurants. Then Ben had the idea that we should package our ice-cream in pint containers and sell it to the grocery stores we passed on the way to the restaurants. That's how we got into manufacturing and distribution.

Ben is the creative driving-force of the company, and I am in the supportive role. A classic entrepreneur, Ben is a real risk-taker - and he is never satisfied, which is great for the business. I am pretty cautious, and without Ben as a partner I would never have started the ice-cream business and experienced all this great stuff. 8

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past