This is part one of our interview with Country Velador, owner of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats in Scottsdale and pastry chef for Cowboy Ciao. Velador opened the sweet-minded shop with her husband, Sergio, last month to sell her line of artisan desserts. You'll find her famous caramel corns, housemade ice creams, pies, and cakes -- the variety of treats will set your inner child grinning. Today we talk to the self-taught pastry chef about how she got started with Super Chunk Sweets and Treats. Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out about her plans for candies, taffy, and barrel-aged vanilla extract.
See also: 9 Best Desserts in Metro Phoenix
You could say we're pretty big fans of pastry chef Country Velador's sweet creations around here. Just consider the fact that she won New Times' Best of Phoenix for Best Dessert last year for her rotating selection of creations at Old Town Scottsdale's Cowboy Ciao. And with luscious desserts like Angel Food "Bread" Pudding with a vanilla bean custard sauce, duck fat toffee, and mesquite chocolate chip cookies to consider, who can blame us?
Last month, Velador and husband Sergio opened their own sweet shop just around the corner from Cowboy Ciao. The new 800-square-foot shop stocks a growing selection of Velador's treats, including several flavors of her signature caramel corn, various handmade candies, ice cream, cakes, and pies.
The space, which the couple leases from Cowboy Ciao owner Peter Kasperski, used to house a jewelry shop -- and that was prior to being used a storage shed for Cowboy Ciao for the past eight years. As you can imagine, and as they'll tell you, there were a lot of renovations to be done. The couple did much of the work themselves, turning the space into a charming and bright space with patterned wallpaper, painted floor and open kitchen.
But owning a sweet shop isn't something Velador ever set out to do. She began her career in the food business as a server and working the front of the house for years before deciding she wanted to learn how things worked in the kitchen.
It was six years ago that she began as a pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao, working under another of the Valley's famous dessert makers, Tracy Dempsey. When Dempsey left -- taking her signature bacon brittle with her -- Velador was left with the challenge to create a new dessert menu.
"I really didn't even want to do a bacon treat," Velador says.
So she started making caramel corn. And before she knew it, she was selling bags of it at the restaurant. By the time she had sold 1,000 bags of her caramel corn, she knew she had hit something big. She began selling caramel corn at farmers markets, and after two seasons, the couple started to play with the idea of opening a storefront.
"Caramel corn is where it all started," she says, standing in the middle of the shop.
Where did the name Super Chunk come from?: We like to say Sergio's the Chunk and I'm the Super . . . But really Sergio blurted it out one day and it stuck. Nothing fit after that because it just described exactly what we want to create. Super Chunks of delicious treats.
What inspires you?: Quirkiness
Three principles for making great desserts: Patience, honesty, knowing who you are.
One thing most people don't know about you: I never set out to be a pastry chef. I started working in the back of the house to learn how it all worked so that Sergio and I could some day open our own breakfast/lunch restaurant. I like to think Super Chunk found us.
Your funniest memory from working in fast food: I used to work the drive-thru with a friend named Tranese. She'd work the window and I'd do all the packing. Once, there was a guy that drove through without any pants on. A couple of weeks later, he drove through again. This time Tranese remembered his car and a good thing she did, because he drove through a third time. But this time Tranese was ready for him with two large cups of ice water that went right into his lap! We never saw him again. (Or was it coffee? It's been a while.)
Favorite childhood food memory: My brother and I often talk about Round the Corner Restaurant. You could order your food at the table from a phone! This was when cell phones were the size of bricks (literally), so we thought it was the coolest thing ever. We'd order some fries to share and eat them with A-1 sauce. Hey, at least it wasn't the ketchup sandwiches my dad used to make us!
Something always found in your kitchen: Coffee, milk, and sugar (mixed together in a cup for me to drink!)
Something never found in your kitchen: Splenda, Sweet n'Low, and that other stuff.
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Your favorite savory ingredient to use in dessert: Duck fat
Your favorite sweet ingredient to use not in a dessert: Honey
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay