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Park creates candy magic

Crew of four works daily to keep the local park’s ptarons supplied with sweet-tooth specialties

Posted: April 16, 2009 9:14 p.m.
Updated: April 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Maria Becerra, right, and Salvador Barragan roll two of the hundreds of thousands of caramel apples created each year at Six Flags Magic Mountain by the Coaster Candy Company on Thursday. The kitchen shown provides candy for the entire park.

People go to Six Flags Magic Mountain for the thrill of the rides but come away with their sweet-teeth satisfied — thanks to what might amount to the park’s best-kept secret.

Speed-crazed ’coaster fanatics come to a full-stop as they ponder rows of almond-covered candy apples, chunks of peanut-butter fudge and pecan turnovers that line the shelves of the Coaster Candy Company.  

“They furnish the whole park with candy,” said Candy Company Supervisor Shirrlene Jansen, referring to the four candy makers who daily create most of the candy sold throughout Magic Mountain. Rice Krispie treats, caramel apples, fudge, chocolate-almond clusters, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, peanut brittle and chocolate-covered strawberries are just some of the treats made behind the scenes in the candy store.

“They do the chocolate early in the morning while it’s still cool,” Jansen said.  

After that, the candy chefs turn their attentions to caramel apples.

Jansen estimated the park creates anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 caramel apples a year.

A large vat bubbling with hot caramel sat in the middle of the kitchen during a reporter’s visit Thursday.

Candy creator Salvador Barragan dipped a polished green apple into the vat, swirled it around, and then smothered it in a pan of chopped almonds. But while Barragan seems to have mastered the art of caramel-apple-making in his 13 years at the job, his passion lies with another sweet creation.

“My favorite is to make English toffee because when you make that kind of candy, you can say you are a real candy maker because it’s only sugar and butter,”  said Barragan, of Sylmar. “If you don’t know how sugar separates from the butter, you don’t have anything.”

Ironically, because Barragan is a diabetic, he must enlist the help of his co-creators to taste-test his creations.

“That’s the reason they keep me here, because I can’t eat anything,” he said.

While the candy makers follow time-honored recipes for most of their sweets, Jansen and the candy makers do like to experiment, too. And when those experiments are successful, they might just create a new flavor of the month, like jalapeño vanilla fudge, or salted nut-roll fudge with vanilla, caramel and peanuts.

Jansen, who has worked at the park for 34 years, takes a lot of pride in her work.

“I’ve been in charge of every area of the park at some point or another. This is my favorite part,” said Jansen, who plans to retire in June. “This job keeps people young. This is the greatest store to work in.”

Magic Mountain spokeswoman Connie Lujan said the park appreciates what the store and its employees add to Magic Mountain.

“Not many places take that extra effort to have an actual kitchen in their theme park,” said Lujan. “It brings something to the employees — to know they had a hand in selling their product, they have a lot more fun doing their job.”



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