Essence Bakery's Eugenia Theodosopoulous: 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.

Chances are if you live in Phoenix and you're love macaróns, you're a regular at Eugenia Theodosopoulous' Essence Bakery. After over 25 years of experience, she says the whole process is still "intoxicating." While she's known for carrying over that passion into her French pastries and making a mean breakfast, we remember specifically loving her 2011 Caramelpalooza entry, which was a caramel macarón that won both the blind taste test and the people's choice.

How does she do it? "The ritual begins by using my favorite old French copper pot, balloon whisk, and dedicated water brush," she says. "Once started, the sugar melts and then changes colors and smells until it becomes a dangerous, ridiculously hot bubbly mass that makes permanent scars. I can tell by the size of the bubbles and smell when it's just right because, too light and -- yuk -- the caramel is too sweet! Too dark and you will never ever forget that gone-beyond-repair smell of burnt caramel!" Ain't that the truth.

See Also: - Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013! - 8 Best Neighborhood Breakfast Spots: Best of Phoenix 2012 - The P. Joseph Project's Patrick Boll and Jason Raducha: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Caramel's best friend is . . . my mother -- a lover of caramel in any shape or form!

I wish Chow Bella had a . . . PASTRYPALOOZA because everyone could bake their personal favorite!

Caramel-filled or caramel-coated? Filled

My baking hero is . . . Jean Louis Clement, MOF -- Boulangerie/Viennoiserie because he can bake anywhere in the world -- India, Korea, Brazil, Phoenix just like he does in his own kitchen.

The number one cooking utensil I can't live without is . . . my thermometer probe!

I keep the caramel-tasting pounds off by . . . running a bakery/restaurant.

My favorite cookbook . . . depends on the day and what I'm doing. Pierre Herme is always inspiring and La Maison du Chocolat is so gorgeous.

When I go home for the day, I just want to . . . exercise, drink wine, and eat with Gilles, my husband -- in that order!

My biggest enemy when cooking is . . . the 90-plus-degree heat!

The trick to a perfect macarón is . . . 20 years of trials and tribulations.

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch