Candy-chemist Eugene J. is unleashing Freaks to the streets of Bushwick. His latest creation is the first to be released from his line of products, made and sold exclusively at his 16 Wilson Ave. storefront, Eugene J. Candy Co.
Branded “FG. Freaks,” the product is not unlike WONKA Nerds, with a fruity, tart taste and sweet, sugary crunch. They come in a variety of traditional flavors, like cherry, strawberry and watermelon, as well as unique flavors like peach, blueberry and acai berry. But what distinguishes Freaks from the competition is its much larger size and bumpy outer shell. The product weighs about 10 times more than Nerds and has a more rigid, dare we say freaky, texture.
While we assumed the “FG.” simply stood for “Fuckin’ Good” (because they are), Eugene says it’s an unofficial abbreviation for Fickelgruber, drawing inspiration from the character in Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Fickelgruber is one of Willy Wonka’s rivals, along with chocolatiers Slugworth and Prodnose. He was accused of sneaking spies into Wonka’s factory and stealing his secret recipes, like the Never-Melting Ice Cream. In a fit of paranoia, Wonka fired his employees, closed his gates and hired a team of the legendary Oompa Loompas.
Eugene doesn’t see Fickelgruber as a villain, but rather as a candy-loving character who’s simply misunderstood. Like Fickelgruber, Eugene is inspired by Wonka and aims to create a parallel product, not an exact copy, of Nerds. His process is similar, but a series of mistakes actually led him to Freaks’ bumpy coating and unique characteristics.
“Initially I was going to make it into a big version of Nerds, with the smooth surface on it,” said Eugene. “But the process of making it is so difficult that I was getting inconsistent results.”
Eugene uses a small set up of his personal equipment in the back of his store, taking large sugar crystals, called rock sugar, and growing a dextrose shell on top with all natural flavors and coloring. After seven hours of processing, he lets the shell dry for another few days, then sorts each batch by hand with DIY packaging.
The tricky sugarcoating process is called panning and can take months to learn, let alone master. Even after taking a short class on the technique, Eugene wasn’t getting the smooth, even results he was initially going for.
“In the confectioner industry, you want a smooth uniform surface on everything,” he said. “Freaks has those bumps and that’s technically a mistake from drying it too quickly…But I like that. It’s taking almost a mistake and highlighting it.”
And thus we have FG. Freaks—Nerds’ funky, edgy cousin. Each 1.06 oz. package is sold for just $2. To Eugene, candy is not so much about selling an artisanal, high-end product— it’s his form of creative expression. He focuses on the novelty and tells Bushwick Daily, “I just want to have fun with it!”
Eugene has been developing the FG. Freaks storyline since 2009 and his release coincides perfectly with an upcoming premier of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway. And with Valentine’s Day around the corner, he’s released Valentine Freaks for a limited time, which comes in strawberry, acai berry and mystery berry flavors.
For now, Eugene continues to focus on panning and has several other scumdiddlyumptious creations in the works, so keep an eye out for more Roald Dahl-inspired products to hit Eugene J. Candy Co.’s shelves later this year.
All photos by Natalie Taylor for Bushwick Daily.