Sweet Dream Comes True at Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
Ask Country and Sergio Velador what they want people to feel when they walk through the door of their shop, Super Chunk, and they’ll tell you, “wonderment.”
There’s kitschy artwork and wallpaper on the walls and a bold colorful pattern painted on the floor to match the wallpaper. At the center of all this color is an antique glass-topped table crammed with toys: the kind of soldiers you probably played with when you were young, tiny plastic robots, Homies figurines and lots of other small trinkets given to them by friends and customers. The kitchen is open to the shop so aromas of popcorn popping, sugar caramelizing and brownies baking permeate the air most of the day.
What I noticed when I first walked through the door was not the colorful surroundings, but the aroma of sugar cooking on the stove. It pulled me in, welcomed me and piqued my curiosity about what sweet treats Country was conjuring up.
I watched Country’s expert hands stir sugar syrup for a batch of pepita chile brittle. Many of her sweets are just a little nontraditional, like her name.
Country Velador. For sure that’s a made up name. Right? Not at all. Country’s mother and father were, as she likes to describe them, hippies who had both entrepreneurial and mercurial spirits.
One of Country’s father’s entrepreneurial ventures was working as a concert promoter. At a concert many years ago when her mother was pregnant with her older brother, Country’s father decided that he would name his first son Conan (yes, after Conan the Barbarian). Country’s mother was incredulous at first but then decided that if he could name their son then she would have naming rights for their future daughter. A few years after Konan (yes, they compromised on the spelling), Country was born. Her name was the suggestion of her mother’s friend who said she liked the name. Country’s mother agreed.
So what does a girl named Country whose parents were free spirits do with her life? Well, whatever she wants.
Her interests were originally in the photographic arts. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Fine Arts. Jobs in the art photography field were scarce so she ended up working in restaurants in Phoenix, Chicago and Los Angeles to pay the rent. In fact, she met her husband while working at a restaurant in Chicago.
The pair moved around a little before settling back in Phoenix to be near family. Country’s big break came when she took a job with Digestif, a restaurant that had some success in downtown Scottsdale a few years back. She hired on as a server hoping to transition into the kitchen at some point.
As a latchkey kid growing up, Country had spent some time in the kitchen baking an occasional birthday cake or making an occasional dinner but she didn’t consider herself a cook nor did she have especially well-defined skills in the kitchen. For a while she considered going to culinary school but a friend suggested that before she make the investment in training she should see what it was like to work in the kitchen.
Country knew she didn’t want to cut up vegetables all day nor did she want to work on the line. So desserts seemed to be the right place for her. And she did have a fascination with what the pastry chefs were doing.
On her off time, she got the opportunity to work with the well-respected pastry chef, Tracy Dempsey, who was the pastry chef for Digestif and Cowboy Ciao at the time. Country had worked with Tracy for one year when Tracy decided to leave to open her own business, Tracy Dempsey Originals.
That left the two restaurants without a pastry chef. Even though she was still a fledgling, Country took over the reins. She knew she was probably not fully ready but she took a leap of faith as did owner Peter Kaperski. Country spent a lot of her off time poring over pastry websites online. She read cookbooks. She watched YouTube videos. She tried to learn as much as she could about pastry and candy making. She felt she knew what customers wanted because of her years of restaurant experience.
As the pastry chef for the restaurant, she was fortunate to have complete autonomy. She was able to source any ingredient she wanted and to create desserts and candies that suited her style and palate.
After so many years in the restaurant business, it’s probably not surprising that Sergio and Country might have dreamt about owning their own food business. In fact, they used to spend hours at bookstores reading design and architecture books, planning how their business would look. They even chose a name for their shop before they actually had one.
“We chose Super Chunk because everything we do is a little chunk of something super and sweet. We realized that the S could also be for Sergio and the C for Country so we figured it was the perfect name for our business.”
Cowboy Ciao always had some little bag of treats for sale at the cash register. Country offered up some caramel corn in different flavors packaged in small cellophane bags for sale. They sold so well that she and Sergio decided to sell the product at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market. Country’s caramel corn in unusual flavors was a huge seller.
Although they were doing a very good business selling Country’s uniquely flavored caramel corn at the farmers’ market, they were not ready to leave their jobs at the restaurant to go into business for themselves.
Fate intervened once again so that Country and Sergio could open their own space. The restaurant owner had a room adjacent to the restaurant that was being used as a storage space. It didn’t take much coaxing to get him to rent them the space for Super Chunk, their dream shop.
Today Country continues as the pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao while also working at Super Chunk with Sergio. It’s the best of both worlds for them.
She loves coming up with creative pastries that fit in with the restaurant menu. And she’s happy to have the freedom to create candies, cookies, brownies, ice cream and other treats for Super Chunk that may be a little out of the ordinary but no less delectable than more traditional sweets.
The unique caramel corn flavors that got her started at the farmers’ market continue to be very popular at Super Chunk. She makes chocolate bacon, brown butter fleur de sel, junk food (frosted flakes, homemade potato chips and roasted peanuts) and Roman holiday (milk chocolate, roasted hazelnut and pretzel sticks).
Do they have their own favorites? Country loves her gumdrops (see recipe) and oatmeal rye cookie. “We don’t add any spices or vanilla to the cookie but it tastes like apple spice, which is just from the combination of the oats and organic rye flour we use. I usually bring one home on Sunday night so I can have it for breakfast on my day off.”
Sergio’s favorite candy is the coffee toffee. “It’s coffee toffee covered with dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, fleur de sel, roasted almonds and homemade cocoa cookie crumbs.”
Cakes, cookies, candies, small batch ice cream, caramel corn and other treats are available all the time. Flavors? Whatever Country thinks sounds good that day. Much like their shop, their sweet treats are whimsical.