Churn's Monica Castillo: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

For someone so sweet, you might be surprised to learn that Monica Castillo of Churn doesn't go for super-sugary ice cream flavors. Her favorite isn't bubblegum or even mint chip but coffee (actually, Vietnamese coffee if you get it at Churn), which she learned to love because her grandfather did. She also likes whiskey.

Castillo may be all smiles when we stop in at the Central Phoenix ice cream shop, but this Johnston and Wales graduate's definitely a perfect balance of sugar and spice.

See also: - Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013! - Churn's Monica Castillo: Caramelpalooza Candymakers (2012)

We chatted with Castillo about the importance of eating local and some of her favorite candies and toys that line the walls of the retro-designed shop. In case you're wondering, she likes the wind-up teeth and Astropops (which she tells me were out of production for years after the manufacturer of the pop's plastic wrappers went out of business.)

Ice cream tastes best . . . right after it comes out of the machine. There's nothing better.

Waffle cone, wafer cone, or pretzel cone? Waffle! No doubt about it.

Caramel should never be . . .passed up or used in small doses, and don't forget the salt. Go big or go home.

When I dine out, I usually go to . . . local restaurants. Cliché, I know, but as someone who aspires to own a business, I've got to support the community.

My favorite savory ingredient to work with . . . salt.

Working with me in the kitchen is like . . .working with a combination of Karen Walker (Will & Grace), Red Forman (That 70's Show), and Lady Heather (CSI), all wrapped up with a sprinkle of motherly love.

My most memorable ice cream experience . . . going to Swensen's to get bubblegum ice cream with my grandfather. He'd always take me to get a scoop when we were at the mall. Followed by free samples at See's Candy.

I'm addicted to my . . . Mac laptop.

Everyone should own a copy of . . .their family's favorite recipes. It's what the best traditions are made of.

My dream vacation would be . . . Bora Bora with no cell phone or TV.

One chef I admire is . . .Julia Child (duh).

I'd pair a caramel apple pie, with whiskey. Whiskey is my beer.

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