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.
Veronica Arroyo is no stranger to the sugary showdown that is Caramlepalooza (nor is she unfamiliar with having Chow Bella writers follow her around the kitchen). As the executive sous chef and pastry chef for Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Princess, Arroyo has been picking and plating the seasonal dessert menu since the restaurant's opening five years ago.
We met up with Arroyo in her Scottsdale kitchen, where she was assembling one of her seasonal desserts, Santa Monica Strawberries. As she gracefully laid out vanilla bean streusel, fresh berries, and micro parsley with handmade rhubarb ice cream, she opened up about being a woman of few words, her foodie travels, and her newly adopted Siberian husky, Lilo (after one of her favorite movies, Lilo & Stitch).
Though the natural-born pastry chef claims to be harsh in the kitchen, after one afternoon at Bourbon Steak with her, we're convinced she's as sweet as, well, you know.
When I have a sweet tooth, I reach for . . . a Hostess cupcake -- or at least I used to.
I think caramel pairs best with . . . I love pairing caramel with spices. Cubeb pepper with caramel or cardamom with caramel are two of my favorites.
Three words to describe my baking style: Balanced, elegant, dynamic.
My nickname is . . . She-Hulk. I hear I'm pretty strong for a girl.
If I weren't making pastries, I'd be . . . touring the arm-wrestling circuit because of my incredible strength, of course.
My favorite person to bake for is . . . any member of my family. I rarely bake at home, so when I do, it is noticeably appreciated.
Favorite ingredient to bake with . . . Butter! There is no respectable substitute.
I like to listen to ____ in the kitchen: The sound of productivity. There is something comforting about hearing eggs being whisked against a stainless steel bowl.
My number one kitchen rule: Give your all, every time.
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My favorite treat growing up was . . . the Chic-o-Stick
Most difficult thing to make in the kitchen: Myself happy. No matter how good something seems, it can always be improved.
I think the next food fad in Phoenix will be . . . hopefully more global cuisine food trucks!