Charles “Chicken Charlie” Boghosian knows what you’re thinking, so go ahead. Say it.
You’re scanning Chicken Charlie’s menu at the Del Mar fair: fried Spam on a stick; fried Twinkies; fried Oreos; fried avocado; batter-coated fried White Castle sliders; and his latest cardio-killer, the Kookie Cookie, two oatmeal raisin cookies smeared with strawberry jam and cream cheese, then wrapped around an Italian-seasoned chicken breast that has been – seeing a pattern here? – fried.
You’re thinking, “He’s crazy.”
Feel free to say it aloud. Charlie won’t mind because Charlie can’t help himself. Watching his mother hollow out zucchinis, he’s inspired. “Mom, why don’t we put a hot dog in there?”
“You’re crazy,” she replies.
A confident lunatic, Boghosian added the Zucchini Weenie to this year’s offerings. Plus deep-fried s’mores. And that Kookie Cookie. As Mom says, he’s crazy.
Like a deep-fried fox. This month, Boghosian celebrates his 25th year serving fair fare. Even through this recession-ravaged economy, business at his stand has been hot and sweet. During the 21 days of last year’s San Diego County Fair, Chicken Charlie’s filled more than 40,000 separate orders.
“We have a very loyal customer base,” said Tony Boghosian, Charlie’s 25-year-old brother.
And why not? Chicken Charlie’s comes within a heartbeat of capturing fair dining’s essence, as a giddy and guilt-free summertime affair for the taste buds. The fair began Friday, moments after the school year ended. The midway’s trademark aroma of crackling grease and caramelized sugar? That’s the smell of freedom.
Team Boghosian – Charlie’s staff includes his newlywed wife, Dawn, and brother Tony – insists all their foods are trans-fat free. They stop short of making any miraculous health claims for the goodies they pluck out of the boiling fat, but their top seller remains the stand’s original item: broasted chicken.
Even diners without a cholesterol care in the world might shrink before some of Charlie’s creations. (Batter-coated and fried White Castle sliders? Fried olives?) But the outgoing owner doesn’t seem to mind. He’s just happy to be here.
Born in Syria to an Armenian family, Charlie was 11 when the Boghosians moved to San Diego’s Golden Hill. Fluent in Arabic and French, the boy spoke broken, accented English. “I told myself at 11, I am not going to have people laugh at me all my life.”
Within a year, the determined kid was speaking smooth and fluent English.
In 1984, the 15-year-old boy began his professional association with the Del Mar fair, working for Bob Jackson’s corn-on-the-cob stand. It was a smashingly successful summer job – Charlie worked for and then with Jackson for decades. In 1996, the two men became partners in the Chicken Charlie’s stand.
In 2007, Charlie became an independent operator. The Jamul resident now runs an 11-trailer operation, with vehicles used for refrigeration, storage and housing some of his 35 employees.
He spends summers on the road, moving from carnival to carnival. After Del Mar, Boghosian’s team will caravan to the Orange County Fair; then the California State Fair in Sacramento; the Los Angeles County Fair; and the Fresno Fair.
“The Del Mar fair has been our life for the best part of 25 years,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place.”
As a social club, though, it’s limited. Charlie used to wonder if he’d ever have time to meet, let alone marry, Ms. Right. But three years ago, he bumped into Dawn – at the state fair. She was working for her parents’ business, Milo’s Pizza and Corn Dog stand.
They married in April and honeymooned last month in Europe, sightseeing occasionally and eating constantly. The newlyweds are crazy about each other. And about food.
“Remember on the Amalfi coast, that fried sweet bread? Like a cross between a doughnut and a French bread roll?” reminisced Dawn, 27. “Inside, it was stuffed with mozzarella and tomato?”
Ah, young love. Pass the Bromo.
Original article source: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-1c14charliem192812-deep-fried-success-2009jun14-story.html