I Believe I Can Fry

How a mild-mannered database analyst became the undisputed king of the fair park fryers—and the master of a heart stopping new culinary movement.
Gonzales, photographed on July 26, 2010, in Dallas.
Photograph by Darren Braun

Abel Gonzales Jr., age forty, is the high priest of frying at the State Fair of Texas, which is to say, the world. Since 2005, when the fair introduced the Big Tex Choice Awards, a kind of Oscars for excellence in frying, four of the little statuettes have gone to him. He has fried Coca-Cola and cookie dough and pineapple rings, among other offerings that profit dentists. Followers taste his commitment and reciprocate with enthusiasm. It is not unheard of to see groups of girls screaming as he walks through the fairgrounds. A few years back, a couple found his talents so moving that they asked him to officiate their wedding. Once, a devoted fan requested that the master deep-fry his vinyl wallet. After Gonzales reluctantly complied, the young man looked at his girl and, in what must have been a serious turning point in their relationship, held the crispy billfold in the air and whooped.

Since the advent of the Big Tex Choice Awards,

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