New kids on the block
Both Gonzales and Boghosian (who works alongside his brother Tony) represent this new wave of deep-frying that’s taken fairs from plain drumsticks and pizza to pretty much anything you can stick in an oil jacuzzi.
Dallas native Gonzales spent summers working as a fry cook at the State Fair of Texas before he had his first great idea (frydea?). The theme for the first Big Tex Choice Awards was Elvis Presley, who was known for his grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich obsession. The only logical choice for a state fair? Deep-fry it, flip it, and reverse it.
In 2005, the fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich won Best Taste. The next year, Gonzales took home Most Creative for fried Coke. It wasn’t until 2009 however, that the world lost its dang mind for his deep-fried butter. This Most Creative-winner oozes out liquid butter when you bite into it, unlike the the fried Coke (that just has the flavor throughout). “The first reaction was just more of [disbelief]. Like, what are you talking about? How is that even possible?” he says.
But despite skepticism, both fair-goers and the press lined up to try the creation. Everyone from NPR to CBS and even Oprah Winfrey herself bit into the buttery bites. On the program, Gonzales told the talk-show host that his deep-fried foods were so successful, he only needed to work three weeks a year at the time to support himself. (And though he probably could’ve kept that up, his business, Vandalay Catering, is thriving in Dallas.) Rounding out the national praise was David Letterman, who poked fun at the indulgent fair treat on The Late Show. In a segment he called “Questions to Ask Yourself Before Eating Fried Butter,” the host asked, “Should I be ‘heart smart’ and get the fried margarine?’” among other quips. If his prior innovations hadn’t earned Gonzales the title of Fried Jesus yet, he was certainly Your Holiness by now.
On the West Coast it’s Boghosian, who’s been called “The Man Who Fries Everything,” who dominates. As a teenager, he took a job shucking and grilling corn at the San Diego County Fair. One season turned into 12 and the owner eventually passed the torch to his apprentice -- who renamed the stand Chicken Charlie’s.
His first bit of success came when he improved upon the fried Twinkie. After tasting one at a fair in Miami, Boghosian liked the concept -- but the flavor wasn’t up to his standards. In 2009 he told the Los Angeles Times, “It had been dipped in a very thick, wet batter and you could barely taste the cream inside.” Instead, he gave it an egg wash and rolled it in dry, sweet flour. The result was so crispy and crunchy that when it debuted at the L.A. County fair in 2001, he sold 10,000 of them.
With all eyes on Boghosian, the pressure was on to deliver something extraordinary the following year. But he was on the rise, and as you already know (and love and have probably eaten by the bagful at fairs and feasts), the next year he came up with deep-fried Oreos.
Today, Boghosian is responsible for deep-fried Kool-Aid and the Zucchini-Weeni (a hot dog stuffed inside a zucchini and then deep-fried) among other creations. In 2008, Boghosian started deep-frying whole White Castle cheeseburgers -- bun and all. He sold 9,000 of them in 18 days.
This summer he’ll debut the deep-fried peanut butter meatball. Next summer? The fry is the limit. “I deep-fried a man’s shoe. I will fry your glasses if you let me. I’ll fry anything,” he says, not at all jokingly.