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.
She might be new to the caramel scene, but Jill McNamara, a self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur," is no newbie to small-business ownership. She and her husband, both photojournalists, also operate a wedding portrait business -- and that's on top of her other gigs as a portrait photographer and photo editor.
With all that in the mix, she still found time to start selling her sweet and savory caramels at Valley farmers markets and restaurants last November under the name Millie's Caramels. (Millie was her grandmother.) You can get them for now at Astor House and JAM in Scottsdale. She offers modern flavors created with local ingredients, including a rosemary and black pepper caramel made with rosemary from the plant just outside her front door.
She's a vegetarian fan of Blue Bell French vanilla ice cream who enjoys Postino's tuna sandwich and being creative. If you don't believe us -- which you totally would if you could peek inside her adorable home -- just wait . . . and taste.
My favorite thing to mix caramel with is . . . everything. Ice cream, brownies, eggs (kidding!).
The best classic candy are . . . Necco Wafers, but only the chocolate ones. My husband eats the rest.
My favorite modern candy are . . . Sixlets. I know they're not real chocolate, or really even real candy, but I always got them on road trips as a kid so I have a soft spot for them.
I look up to . . . Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar because she's always innovating and experimenting.
Candy making is like photography . . . because they both allow me to create something beautiful.
A picture can say a thousand words, but candy . . . always takes you to a happy place.
Caramel should never be . . . boring.
My guilty pleasure is . . . ice cream. And nail polish. But not together.
You'd be surprised to find . . . veggies and fruits for juicing in my fridge.
When I'm not working, you'll usually find me . . . playing with my dogs and gardening and sometimes kayaking.
The wisest advice I've ever been given is . . . to work hard while you're young. (Thanks to our financial planner for that one!)
I think I'm going to win Caramelpalooza because . . . my caramels are downright yummy!