Three Twins Ice Cream founder Neal Gottlieb a survivor, whether he wins TV competition or not

North Bay “Survivor 2016” contestant Neal Gottlieb, 38, is a gritty adventurer who has not only survived an Ivy League college education at Cornell University but has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and hiked the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu in Peru. After getting out of the Peace Corps at age 28, Gottlieb took his life savings of $70,000 in 2005 and launched Three Twins Ice Cream, now sold at six scoop shops in the Bay Area. Gottlieb opened a factory in Petaluma in 2010 to sell organic pints of ice cream to grocery stores nationwide, then added another in Sheboygan, WI, in 2014.

So what's a smart, entrepreneurial activist doing on the cast of the competitive reality TV show, “Survivor 2016: Koah Rong,” where he braved the wilds of a remote, Southeast Asian island as part of the Brains (vs. Beauty vs. Brawn) Tribe?

“I have been a ‘Survivor' fan for years and therefore understand the game, am mentally tough, a physical force, likeable and absolutely determined to win,” he wrote in his cast biography for the show, which airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS (Channel 5). “I have watched the show for years and yearn for the chance to be a castaway in a remote locale and compete for 39 days.” With two episodes already behind them, the Brains Tribe has survived surprisingly well during the Survivor Immunity Challenges, coming in first (and earning immunity) in the challenge last week. During the “Dragging the River” challenge last night, Gottlieb utilized both his muscles and his leadership skills to help maneuver his team into second place.

The “Beauty Tribe” has also survived well and are emerging as the most fun, entertaining tribe to watch, with a budding and unlikely “bromance” being played up between quirky gay gardener Tai Trang, originally from Viet Nam, and hunky Army Veteran Caleb Reynolds of Kentucky.

The Brawn Tribe has also provided lots of entertainment, mostly in the form of the usual back-stabbing and deliciously dumb antics that led to them losing immunity - and a tribe member - on both episodes so far. After losing the tribe's goggles during the first challenge, Darnell Hamilton was voted off the island last week. Last night, shifting allegiances led to Jennifer Lanzetti going home instead of Alecia Holden, the young real estate agent who is still hanging on.

In Sausalito, Gottlieb lives on a 27-foot sailboat called “The Incorrigible,” which may give him an edge on Koah Rong, the second largest island off of the Cambodian coast.

While the Beauty Tribe won a boat and a fishing kit last night, the Brains Tribe got to take home a small fishing kit to help them survive. As a deck-swabbing sailor, Gottlieb will probably know how to bait that hook and filet that fish.

Gottlieb is also an indoor rock climber and was the co-captain of Cornell's varsity lightweight crew, so he may also be able to do better than Trang at climbing the palm tree to get to the hidden Immunity Idol.

For the past week, Gottlieb has been back in the Midwest working at his ice cream plant but has been watching the show from the 8th Street Ale Haus in downtown Sheboygan. Hey Neal! Have a Sheboygan sausage and a brew for us!

You can follow him on Twitter @nealhgottlieb.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette