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.
It takes some real cojones to quit your day job and start a pop-up restaurant concept with your bestest buddy, but that's just what Patrick Boll and Jason Raducha did with the P. Joseph Project. After 22 years of "culinary experimenting," as Boll puts it, they decided they were ready. But are they ready for the heat of Caramelpalooza?
Their penchant for trying new things and on-the-spot menu-making makes us super-excited to see what they do this year. When we stopped by Raducha's bread-making operation in his garage and asked them to make us something, they pulled out some pork chops and onions and cooked up a gourmet lunch in less than five minutes, thanks to Raducha's 900-degree wood-burning oven in a trailer. We know he's got the goods for caramel-making, too, from his sea salted caramel ice cream, which is available at The Parlor and Main Ingredient.
See Also: - Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013! 2013 - Jason Raducha and Patrick Boll Call It Quits at Squash Blossom and Start Looking for New Pop-up Space - Churn's Monica Castillo: Caramelpalooza Candymakers
The most nerve-wracking dish to prepare is . . . Patrick: Dutch Baby Pancake (German Apple Pancake) Jason: Cakes and Cookies. I can never get their doneness right. Not enough, too much -- such a delicate balance. If anyone has a great cookie recipe, let me know. Mine always spread out too thin. Why can't I be Otis Spunkmeyer?
My favorite savory ingredient to combine with caramel is . . . Patrick: Dried Red Chiles Jason: Butter, lots and lots of butter.
True or false: The dishes in my kitchen at home usually get washed soon after I dirty them. Patrick: True. My wife is a bit of a neat freak (she will attest to that) so she's usually trailing right behind me. Jason: True, as a kid I wasn't allowed to play with another toy until the first toy was put away. I am always in search of my next meal!
My favorite new cookbook is . . . Patrick: Jamie at Home Jason: It's a toss-up: Mission Street Food and Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town
The biggest fad in cooking that I just don't get is . . . Patrick: Molecular gastronomy Jason: All these chefs that want to be celebrities. The Food Network has ruined it for the craft. Things need to go back to the ways of the past, like The Two Fat Ladies, Jeff Smith on The Frugal Gourmet, Martin Yan on Yan Can Cook, Justin Wilson on Louisiana Cookin', and Graham Kerr on The Galloping Gourmet.
Patrick: My New Year's resolution was to open a pop-up restaurant, so far it's going well but has been put on hold due to having my hip replaced. Jason: My New Year's resolution was to quit my dead-end job and do what I love; so far it's going great. Every week I am baking, making pizzas, doing pop-up dinners with my buddy Patrick Boll, meeting new people, and just enjoying life.
If I was trying to avoid jury duty, I would . . . Patrick: What's jury duty?!?! ;-) ;-) Jason: Plan a trip. I have been meaning to make more time for myself. It's a good excuse, "I am out of town!"
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Patrick: If I didn't have my iPhone and sharp knife, I'd never make it through a day at work. Jason: If I didn't have my scale, I'd never make it through a day at work.
When it comes to diet and exercise, it's definitely easier for me to . . . Patrick: Follow "My Diet" of eating all great food. Jason: Neither! I eat what I want. Portillo's opened on a Wednesday, I ate there for lunch and dinner, and was planning on going back Thursday. The best thing was it was crowded, I had to park far away from the building and it made me increase my steps, so eating caused me to exercise! Awesome.
I think I'm going to win this year's Caramelpalooza because . . . Patrick: It's not about winning, it's about making people happy by doing what I love: creating unique food. Jason: It's not I, it's we. I think we bring to the table a level of creativity that will spark excitement in the judges. Our fun, go get it attitude will shine though in the caramel confection we produce, and our flavor profile will be one not to be trifled with.