Janet Shulman of the Caramel House, Part 2

This is part two of Mabel Suen's Chef's Choice profile of confectioner Janet Shulman of The Caramel House. Part one can be found here. Part three, a recipe from Shulman, is available here.

Janet Shulman demoing her caramels at Local Harvest Grocery - Mabel Suen
Mabel Suen
Janet Shulman demoing her caramels at Local Harvest Grocery

Did your family cook when you were a child?: My siblings and I all learned to cook as we grew up by helping my mom in the kitchen.

How old were you when you started cooking? I have been in the kitchen since birth. I am the youngest of four so my Mom was always busy in the kitchen.

First cooking job? In high school I created a party-helper business. I used to help set the dining tables, warm up the dishes, serve, clear and clean up the kitchen.

Did you attend culinary school or college? I did not attend culinary school. A long time ago, I took classes at The Kitchen Conservatory and at Dierberg's Cooking School. While I was in college, I took a science of cooking course as an elective.

What do you eat? I eat blueberries and oatmeal with coffee every day for breakfast without fail, and you can often find caramelized onions in my refrigerator.

What do you cook at home? My favorite type of meal-cooking is Italian-style seafood and from-scratch brownies and cakes.

What are your three favorite food-related businesses in St. Louis (besides your own!)? Some local food businesses I do not sell to that I admire are Ted Drewes and Eckert's.

The local chef/confectioner who most impresses you? I think all of the confectioners in town are amazing!

Your favorite food city? St. Louis.

Favorite recent food find? I like the pork belly at Half & Half.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Lochhead vanilla.

Janet Shulman of the Caramel House, Part 2
Mabel Suen

Five words to describe your food. Fresh, soft, mouthwatering, flavorful, delicious.

One food you dislike: I will not eat brains, not ever.

A food you cannot live without. Coffee, and I love butter.

An ingredient not allowed in your kitchen. Any other vanilla extract besides Lochhead.

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... Pie shops.

Best tip for home cooks. Start with the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on and aim for simple flavors rather than complexity of the recipe.

Favorite after-work hang out: My home kitchen. I love sitting around the dining table listening, laughing and watching friends and family eat what I have prepared while discussing the news of the day.

Favorite kitchen tool: Sharp knives.

What's next for you? For starters, I need to grow my business. I have another line of products to introduce and a plethora of flavors to add.

Janet Shulman of the Caramel House, Part 2
Mabel Suen

What inspires you? I love the challenges of creating a new business and new food concepts. I want to show my kids that it is okay to take a risk on yourself and to trust yourself and your instincts.

Cooks who inspire you. My mother, grandmothers, Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet.

Proudest professional moment? I have had a lot of proud professional moments including being e-mailed by Roger McElroy of Straub's, The Tim Ezell Show, The Dave Glover Show, sitting next to George Mahe and being Tweeted by Dana Loesch. However, the proudest professional moment comes at the end of my day with my family since being a mother-wife-daughter is what I do best.

Favorite music to have in the kitchen. I am a rock'n'roller, so I like the music of the '60s, '70s and '80s as well as jazz and blues. When I cook professionally, I need quiet, so I don't make mistakes. When I wrap, package and drive, I listen to 97.1 FM.

What's on your pizza? Olive oil, caramelized onions, marinated Greek olives, capers, red peppers, tomatoes, a pinch or two of truffle salt and fresh mozzarella cheese. After I cut and serve it, I add fresh greens on top and balsamic glaze.

What's in your omelet? Cavender's all-purpose Greek seasoning, cream cheese, chopped green onions, diced tomatoes and mushrooms.

What are you drinking? I like a room temperature Pinot Grigio or a frosty Schlafly Pale Ale.

What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? I have learned to be a bit tougher.

When did I know the confectioner's life was for you? I'll let you know in a couple of years!


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