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.
Crepe Bar isn't the kind of restaurant people would be likely stumble across by chance. It's inconspicuously located in one of Tempe's many strip malls with nothing but a plain red sign up top. Plenty of chefs would probably take one look at the spot and think, "It's restaurant suicide."
But that's just not how Jeff Kraus rolls. Despite the less-than-stellar location, he's turned the space into a favorite spot for fans of his unique take on French cuisine. They see it as a place that's more than worth the drive.
See also: - At Crepe Bar, a New King of Crepes Is Crowned - Muñeca Mexicana's Minerva Orduño Rincón: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013 - Jeff Kraus Makes the "First Time Crepe" -- Nutella, Elderflower, Spiced Walnuts and More
Kraus is a high-energy type who's not easy to redirect once he's set his mind to something. The combination of drive and creativity definitely shows in his food, which tends to be artistic in a slightly whimsical way, elaborate without being fussy. Before Crepe Bar, he and his wife/partner Erin Ware operated a highly successful food truck and a culinary concept called ++experience++ gastro.
If I could eat at any restaurant in the world, I'd go to . . . I have a list of restaurants that are all over the world, but if I would have to choose one, it would be the one that is on top of mind currently, Saturne in France.
My catchphrase is . . . "oh MANG!!!" and "order in 30."
Most people don't know I'm really good at . . . stretching. "What does that even mean?" says DH and ES. Ha, love you guys!
My pet peeve in the kitchen is . . . walking back and forth for ingredients or equipment to complete one dish. MEP, MEP, MEP.
The best dish I've ever made was . . . was also one of the worst dishes. When I was in sixth or seventh grade, I made my Ma a dry chocolate cake with an overly sweet vanilla icing with stale mini marshmallows that read, "Happy Moms Day."
I mostly use my phone for . . . three things: flashlight app in the morning to make it safely down the stairs; mid-morning-late afternoon social media updates; and at night for a quick game of "paper planes."
Describe your dream kitchen:
Dear Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Luck of the Irish Leprechaun, and Genie in the Bottle: All I want for the holidays is a fully staffed kitchen, three more circulator and baths, two more induction burners, a salamander, a dewar full of Ln2, unlimited amount of silicon molds, a tandoori oven, a smoker, a walk-in, hidden storage, work top trash chutes, and an in-wall pantry. Thank you.
I'd love to cook for . . . Quentin Tarantino . . . because . . . he is an inspiration to me on how I approach the flavors (ingredients, design, taste, ambiance, and experience) that I offer.
The best show on the Food Network is . . . is the Cooking Channel part of the Food Network? If it is then it is a toss up between Unique Eats and Iron Chef.
One common misconception about chefs is . . . that anyone who wears "whites" or is a culinary school graduate is a chef.
My next tattoo will be . . . a light bulb or a watch.
If my food were a song, it'd be . . . Beck, "Devil's Haircut."