His life's work reads like a chapter in The Fattening of America. Every year, Chicken Charlie a.k.a. Charlie Boghosian, the fried food maestro of Southern California's county fair circuit, invents newer and ever more gluttonous deep-fried creations. His two biggest sellers are deep-fried avocados and deep-fried frogs' legs, though he also does a brisk trade in fried Twinkies and Oreos. His most notorious creation, a chicken sandwich made with Krispy Kreme donuts in place of bread, remains on the menu, and he's bringing back last year's big hit, a fried Klondike ice cream bar. But he also has a few new offerings for fried food connoisseurs.
We caught up with the busy deep-fry king, who's developing a mass-market deep-fryer, working on a line of flours and looking to open his first restaurant (in San Diego). In between all this, he gave us a sneak peek of how San Diego (June 10 - July 4), OC (July 15 - Aug. 14) and Los Angeles (Sep. 3 - Oct. 2) county fairgoers will be hardening their arteries this summer. Because if something's worth eating, it's worth deep-frying.
$11.95 with a side of fries
Americans love hot wings. Americans love ribs. Why not combine the best elements of both snacks?
"The idea for these came to me we did when did a show on the Travel Channel, a 1-hour special called Deep Fried. During that show, I created a couple of items. Right across from me was a barbecue place, and I thought 'Why don't we combine the two and see what we can come up with?' I take a slab of baby back [pork] ribs and cut them into fingers. I take each finger, bread it in the flour we use for our fried chicken, fry them, then toss them in a homemade barbecue sauce infused with our seasonings and spices."
$5.95 for four donut holes
Inspired by his childhood and by Elvis Presley, these are essentially donut holes made with Kool-Aid instead of water.
"My family and I were talking about expanding into drinks, and we were talking about Kool-Aid. I thought 'Heck, why do it as a drink? Why not do it as a cake?' I tried several experiments and what I ended up with were these mini-muffins. It's made with cherry Kool-Aid, so it looks red. It's like a donut hole but bigger, and it's made with cherry Kool-Aid so it's red on the inside. For the topping, I mix powdered sugar and more Kool-Aid. It's like ultimate cherry Kool-Aid. We haven't tried other flavors yet, but I'm sure we'll be asked to do it."
Totally Fried Brownie
$5.35 for one brownie
Boghosian isn't exactly sure from where he's sourcing the brownies, but he'll likely use a local bakery.
"I've been wanting to do brownies for years and years, and we just never had the opportunity. It has the crispiness on the outside, but it's warm and gooey chewy on the inside, and we put chocolate syrup and sugar on the top."
Something healthy, perhaps?
Boghosian is a big fan of cheese nachos. Recently married and expecting his first child, he says his wife often scolds him about eating too many carbs and not enough vegetables. So he replaced tortilla chips with breaded, deep-fried zucchini curls and topped them with nacho cheese. "See?" he says. "I'm eating my vegetables." I did it as a joke, but it turned out to be a great seller." That, too, will be on this year's county fair menu.