Slade Grove: 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.

Last year at Caramelpalooza, Slade Grove took second place for Best in Show. You'd better believe he's going to do all he can this year to make sure he's number one. If his showing at the 2012 Pie Social, where he took the People's Choice ribbon, is any indication, we're in for a tasty competition.

His buttery, sweet caramel is often enhanced by Saigon cinnamon, bananas, mango, alder wood-smoked sea salt, and, most recently, bacon. Since he's a veteran at caramel experimentation and preparation in general, and he's been a fierce competitor in every competition he signs up for, we expect great things from him this year. But what does he expect this year?

See Also: - Slade Grove Says No to "Foo Foo Fad Joints," Yes to Pie! - Tracy Dempsey's Originals' Tracy Dempsey: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013 - Essence Bakery's Eugenia Theodosopoulous: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

If I made a caramel cocktail, I'd use . . . my awesome alder wood-smoked sea salt caramel sauce, Kahlua, vodka, and a little cream because there's nothing better than salted carmel and Kahlua.

I secretly wish I was better at . . . making toffee.

Hot chocolate or chocolate milk? Dark chocolate almond milk of course.

My biggest culinary influence comes from . . . the creations of Elizabeth Falkner. I'm really inspired by how she colors way outside of the lines when creating new desserts. Not only are they works of art, they are pretty darn good, too.

Not everything goes with caramel -- especially . . . lavender. For the life of me, I don't understand why some people like this awful flavor combination.

I've never seen the movie Titanic all the way through. Way too long and way too boring.

I get a little OCD about . . . how my kitchen tool chest is organized. Every spatula, scoop, knife, and utensil has its place.

What restaurant could you not live without if it closed? Nothing, really. Closing is part of the process of evolution. Everything, no matter what, has it's time to come and to go.

The weirdest thing I've ever asked Siri is . . . Siri who? I have Google Android. That little robot knows everything. Siri is a child locked inside a tiny box.

This year, my caramel is going to take top honors because . . . it's all natural, it's real, and it's pretty darn amazing.

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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