If you’ve been to the L.A. County Fair, you know him. Maybe not by sight or by his full name, but definitely from his amazing, deep fried concoctions.
Deep-fried avocados .
Delectable Krispy Kreme chicken sandwiches with Swiss cheese drizzled in honey.
He’s Charlie Boghosian, or Chicken Charlie as he is more commonly known, and he’s the stuff fair legends are made of.
Charlie is a fair food genius, always tinkering in the kitchen to develop new, unique tastes each year. Take, for example, the Elvis-inspired deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, drizzled with honey (which I heard via the Rock & Roll Heavens blog that the King said was a hunk-a hunk-a burning deee-lish).
What you may not know about him is that he wanted to be an FBI agent and now receives inspiration from seeing that look of gastronomic ecstasy that crosses your face when you bite into an incredibly decadent deep-fried Twinkie sprinkled with dots of chocolate sauce. Or the pursing of your lips as you enjoy that first crisp bouchée of the very French, very chic deep-fried frog legs.
“This is why I do it!” Charlie said recently as he witnessed my two kids’ eyes roll back into their heads like a great white shark feeding frenzy as they devoured Charlie’s newest invention – the deep-fried Pop Tart.
Take a look at how Charlie makes these:
His explanation of how he came up with the idea is hilarious! For breakfast one day he felt like having pancakes and a Pop Tart, so he took a shortcut – dipping a Pop Tart in pancake batter, and then deep-frying it. Add a bit of jam and powdered sugar and voila! Sounds like something my husband would do.
All of Charlie’s masterpieces are inspired by things he loves or suggestions from family, friends or fair guests.
He attends five fairs a year throughout California, a circuit he’s traveled as Chicken Charlie for 15 years now (he’s been working in Fair food service for more than 25 years). He started with his broasted chicken, using his own recipe. The menu swelled to include all the deep-fried specialties he now offers.
Besides Pop Tarts, new this year are the deep-fried White Castle sliders. Back for a second year are deep-fried s’mores. My husband sampled the White Castles and can’t say enough about them.
So far, Charlie’s surprise sensation has been the frog legs, which he gets from Louisiana and Florida. He sold about 2,000 pounds of these in Orange County and expects to dish up 10,000 pounds in all.
“I love to cook!” he says.
But what people don’t know is that Charlie is a serious cook, not just the deep-fried food king. At home he cooks elaborate meals for his family, using Armenian recipes handed down for generations. At the Fair he will share a couple of those with us – chicken kabobs, hummus and tabbouleh. The kabobs are loaded with big, juicy chunks of marinated chicken and vegetables.
Charlie makes the eight-ingredient hummus and 11-ingredient tabbouleh fresh each day. “I start at 6:30 every morning. I do my own chicken rub, too.” And don’t get him started on batters! “Making batters is an art!”
Ever the giver, Charlie wants to share all this fun treat-making with the rest of us. He is working on a fair food cookbook tentatively titled “Chicken Charlie at the Fair: 101 Ways to Blow Your Diet.” It’s already on my Amazon.com wish list.
Charlie will have his usual booth on Broadway across from the grandstand and his new one, which will sell the White Castles, the kabobs, and the hummus and tabbouleh, near the Flower & Garden Pavilion. Stop by, treat yourself, say hello to Charlie. And who knows? If you have a great idea, you might see it here deep-fried next year. So c’mon, submit your ideas!