Life

We Asked Chefs To Tell Us About Their Favorite Halloween Candies


If you watch videos of people from other countries eating American treats, you have noticed that a couple items are consistently contentious: root beer and peanut butter. As our study sample is largely made up of comedians who try to make a living complaining about eating things online, we may not have enough evidence to make this claim, but we are going to anyway:

Americans love peanut butter on a level that cannot be understood by any other culture on Earth.

As further evidence, we cite our power ranking of full-sized candy bars. Seriously, it was a post about candy bars and Zach Johnston went rogue and named Reese’s peanut butter cups number one. They aren’t even candy bars. He was just sprung on peanutty goodness.

And, he isn’t alone either. Last Halloween, our editor wrote an open love letter to the Reese’s cup.

So, it wasn’t a huge surprise when we questioned a couple dozen chefs about their Halloween treat of choice, and their Reese’s love eclipsed the affection shown for Snickers, Twix, or Kit Kat. The real surprise is that no one (Zach included) is stanning the Take5. It’s salty sweet, crunchy, and chewy. And, it has peanut butter in it. Why are people settling for less?

Read through these chef choices and manufacture your own indignation about a favorite being overlooked. Rant about it in the comments and know that you have our support. Unless, you are mad about Twizzlers getting excluded. They are terrible.

Chef Tracy Chang — Chef and Owner, PAGU (Cambridge, MA)

One of my favorite childhood candies was Japanese, Meiji’s Chelsea coffee hard candy. While a lot of my classmates enjoyed butterscotch, like Werther’s, this was a coffee flavored, Japanese version my grandmother would buy me from the Asian grocer after I helped her with her weekly shopping. It was beautifully packaged, and I loved getting extra for my friends and neighbors during Halloween time. If people didn’t like coffee (not for all kids’ palates), they could try the butterscotch or yogurt.

Chef Sean McPaul — Executive Chef, High Street on Hudson (New York, NY)

Kit Kat is just so simple. Thin crispy wafer in a chocolate shell. I guess what makes it for me is the extra sweetness in the chocolate. I rarely eat sweets, but if I’m going to, I’m really going for it. Kit Kat hits it for me. It’s also good for sharing…

Chef Doug Nguyen — Owner and Executive Chef, Sabi Sushi & Dumplings at The Pennsy Food Hall (New York, NY)

I was born in Vietnam. The Bến Tre Province in Vietnam is nicknamed by Vietnamese as the Land of Coconut. The Vietnamese term for coconut candy is kẹo dừa (kẹo = candy and dừa = coconut). Coconut candy was originally associated with Mỏ Cày, a small township within the Bến Tre province. Although coconut candy is different in the United States, the Mounds bar will always bring back a little taste of home.

Chef Adam Sobel — Chef, Cinnamon Snail at The Pennsy Food Hall (New York, NY)

I have always had a thing for “original” peanut chews, which happen to be vegan!

Chef Joe Mallol — Executive Chef, Le District, Harry’s Café & Steak, and HPH restaurant group (New York, NY)

The Mary Jane. This classic and old school candy is so good people don’t even realize. It’s a peanut butter and molasses flavored little piece of chewy goodness. Growing up I would go to the corner candy store (back then we had candy stores), play pinball, and grab a handful of these little gems at 5 cents apiece.

Chef JT Walker — Executive Chef, Pacific Hideaway (Huntington Beach, CA)

This is tough for someone who’s whole lower jaw is a sweet tooth. I LOVE almost all candy – Heath Bars, Sour Patch Kids, Snickers – but when it comes down to it, I love one flavor pairing the most: Peanut butter and chocolate, which means Reese’s.

Now, I could be the 80s kid I am and go for the Reese’s pieces (shout out to ET), but I love the OG peanut butter cups. The savory of the creamy peanut butter paired with the milk chocolate. There may be only one in the candy bowl, but I search until I find it. I’m not the guy that waits to eat that piece at the end, give it to me first. God forbid I choke on a Baby Ruth or have a filling pulled out from a Laffy Taffy and have to wait longer to enjoy my Reese’s.

Chef Anthony Sinsay — Executive Chef, Jsix Restaurant (San Diego, CA)

I always go through my kids trick or treat bags after Halloween and raid them for anything peanut butter – they hate it, I love it! It’s a win, win! But if you’re that person who gives out granola bars at Halloween, you’re ruining these kids childhoods. Give them a darn Laffy Taffy, and get off your high horse!

Chef Greg Lombardi — Executive Chef, Del Frisco’s Grille Rockafeller Center (New York, NY)

Despite them being known as one of the Halloween rejects, my favorite Halloween candy has always been Smarties. The chalky texture and sweet, fruity flavor makes them almost addicting. I’m also a huge fan of the fact that they’re called Smarties because “to smart” is a verb that means to have one’s face involuntarily pucker – which is exactly what happens every time you eat a Smartie. It’s brilliant! Now what other Halloween candy has that kind of backstory?

Chef Erik Leong — Executive Chef, Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club (Honolulu, HI)

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but when Halloween comes, I wouldn’t mind indulging in Sweetarts or Smarties. Some may disagree because of Smarties’ chalky texture or Sweetarts’ sour flavors, but I enjoy each for their simple, sweet, and slightly sour taste. The packaging of Smarties is also nostalgic.

Chef Isaac Toups — Owner and Chef, Toups South and Toups Meatery (New Orleans, LA)

Chocolate! For the love of god, give the kids and the “adult supervision” chocolate. M&M.s, Hershey’s bars, Reeses peanut butter cups are my favorites, but the list goes on. Keep that hard candy crud for the guests that come over to your house that you don’t like. Chocolate has wonderful nutritional properties (I don’t know if that’s true but I’m sticking to my guns). Also whatever you, do not give out sugar free candy! That’s evil; you know who you are!

Chef Chintan Pandya — Chef, Rahi (New York, NY)

I like the Sour Patch Kids Zombies because there is a fun element of my favorite candy with the spirit of Halloween zombies, but most importantly for the sour and sweet taste. The sweet and sour mix is one of my favorite food combinations to explore and I like how this combination is translated into candy.

Chef Jacob Hammel — Chef de Cuisine, DTB (New Orleans, LA)

My favorite Halloween Candy is a Snickers. I’m a huge fan of texture and Snickers have just that. You get the chew from the nougat, the crunch and nutty flavor from the roasted peanuts, which are one my favorite nuts to eat, and the creaminess of the caramel. Oh and all of that is wrapped up in velvety milk chocolate. Whats not to like about that? In the days leading up to Halloween we get the bite size snickers, which makes it easy to eat quite a few in one sitting. I can’t wait for my kids to get home after trick or treating so I can grab a couple out of their bags.

Chef Mina Newman — Chef, Sen Sakana (New York, NY)

Candy corns are my number one go to when the Halloween candy hits the store shelves. I love the concept of three different levels of all the same flavor in candy corn.

I also love that candy corn is a true oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. I always enjoy a fun culinary oxymoron.

Chef Ashlee Aubin — Executive Chef and Partner, Salero (Chicago, IL)

Reese’s peanut butter cups are my absolute favorite Halloween candy. The chocolate has a slight snap and the creamy peanut butter inside is aggressively salty. It was really the first place where I understood the importance of salt in relation to sweet.

Fabio Viviani — Owner and Executive Chef, Siena Tavern (Chicago, IL)

I like Fruit by the Foot … there’s like three feet of candy in there! What’s not to love about that?

Chef Katy Keefe — Pastry Chef, McCrady’s and McCrady’s Tavern (Charleston, SC)

Honestly, I love the Palmer Chocolates. They are the molded milk chocolates like jack-o-lanterns and witches hats wrapped in foil. I like that they taste like when I was little. They are just chocolate, they’re cheap and they have versions for every holiday. I always traded for those after trick or treating!

Chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr. — Owner and Chef, The Purple Pig (Chicago, IL)

Butterfinger all the way. I love the chocolate and peanut butter combination, and the easy answer is Reese’s, which probably everybody says. But Butterfinger gives you the best texture, especially when frozen. I’d get a ton and keep them in the freezer. Also, the Bart Simpson commercials when I was a kid were very cool.

Chef Steven Devereaux Greene — Executive Chef, Herons at the Umstead (Cary, NC)

Caramel corn, for the nostalgia factor. I actually don’t love the flavor, but it reminds me of childhood. Just for Halloween, it was the only time of year it was really around. I’d eat too much, and it didn’t always make me feel good. It’s like Peeps at Easter—they aren’t great, but if you’re going to have one, it’s during that holiday.

Chef Greg Biggers — Executive Chef and Partner, Fort Louise (Nashville, TN) and Executive Chef, Café des Architectes (Chicago, IL)

I love the Reese’s peanut butter cups shaped like pumpkins. I am sure it’s the same recipe, but they taste soooooooo much better than the normal ones.

Chef Mike Molloy — Executive Chef, The Don CeSar (St. Pete Beach, FL)

Who doesn’t love a traditional peanut butter cup? Even with all of the new fun variations, I still fall back on Reese’s, my childhood favorite. I can remember how excited I would get when I dumped out my pillowcase at the end of a long night of ransacking the neighborhood. I would sort out all of those silly Mound Bars and Milky Ways, so that I could get to the peanut butter cups. A full pack with two included was like striking gold. My trick for making them even better is putting them in the freezer for a few minutes to harden them up, then bam – a one-bite paradise! Crack them over a salted caramel ice cream, and now you are really talking.

Chef Rick Moonen — Chef and Owner, rm seafood and Rx Boiler Room (Las Vegas, NV)

Reese’s peanut butter cups are one of my favorite candies. Peanut butter is my secret addiction – I make my own peanut butter now. I used to love Smarties. I can’t eat them anymore because they’re full of sugar. My brother and I used to fight over them as kids on Halloween.

Chef Erik Melendez — Head Chef, Zuma Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV)

Gummy bears are my absolute favorite. Other than bringing back of a lot of childhood ,they last longer than the other treats and taste great!

Chef Janine Booth — Executive Chef, Stiltsville Fish Bar (Miami Beach, FL)

My all-time favorite Halloween candy is Pineapple Lumps! Chewy and tart pineapple taffy is cut into little rectangles and coated in dark chocolate. They are from New Zealand, and I rarely get to eat them these days, But, our Pastry Chef at Stiltsville Fish Bar, Gail Goetsch, brought me back to my childhood this week by making the most amazing sorbets with chocolate and pineapple. Swirled together and it’s Pineapple Lump sorbet magic!

Chef Thomas Weibull — Chef, Dirty Habit (San Francisco, CA)

Halloween for me is always a great reminder of why I love the East Coast, and I reminisce about growing up there. The smell of cider, apple pies, the fall foliage and of course Halloween treats!!! My favorites included candies, but mostly they consist of toffee or hard sugar-coated apples. Being close to New Jersey, which has many apple orchards, you knew that especially around Halloween you’d get lots of apples. I always got sugar-coated apples trick-or-treating, and sometimes they had different coatings. I love the caramel around the apples. It’s like having candy and fresh fruit right at the same time, a sweet, tart and crisp treat. Needless to say it always meant visiting the dentist after having all that sugar!

Chef Perry Pollaci — Chef, Firefly (Studio City, CA)

Nothing spells sweet cavities like the classic candy corn. Remember being a kid and crushing far, far more than any sane child should consume in any sitting. I recall having that giant plastic jack-o-lantern bowl with black handle brimming with different confections…. but the candy corn was always the candy that I associate with Halloween. Three colors, one solid flavor profile: SWEET. I used to try to nibble them in sections, to discern the white from the orange. Maybe I was being OCD, but there really is no palate change from orange color 5 to yellow color 3.

We all knew that they were a once a year treat, and I can’t recall the last time I’ve enjoyed candy corn, but I’ll always associate those explosive sugar bombs with Halloween.

Chef Roy Abi-Najm — Chef, West Coast Fish (Costa Mesa, CA)

It’s no surprise that Halloween has changed drastically since I was a kid. Kids used to flood the streets fully in costume without a worry of something weird or scary happening. After the end of every trick-or-treat session, my friends and I would gather around, dump out our candy-filled pillow cases and start trading all the goodies. I would always go for the one thing that the other kids didn’t want … Smarties! Something about the sugary, sweet, chalky tasting candy that I go nuts for. I would trade away all of the favorites like Twix and Snickers, and all of my friends thought I was crazy. Found out the hard way that they don’t actually make you smarter.

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