Trading pots and pans for chisels and chainsaws: Culinary arts students learn the craft of ice sculpture

Heather Bryant / Sun Star Reporter
March 22, 2011

Culinary arts students took a break from the kitchen to hone their ice-carving skills on March 15 and 16.

On the first day of instruction, students learned how to use chainsaws, chisels and grinders. They practiced on small blocks of ice to create a variety of shapes. Ice sculptures can range from smaller, flat creations that showcase a logo to much larger, three dimensional creations. As the sculptor adds depth and dimension the value of the sculpture increases.

Nice event sculptures can go for as much as $300, estimates Julio Martinez, the workshop instructor. Martinez is from Mexico and traveled to Alaska for the Ice Art Championships. This workshop is his third visit to Fairbanks.

“At least we got the opportunity to do this. In our field this is a moneymaker. Not a lot of people can do this,” Ian Pearce said.

Pearce is finishing his final semester of the program, and is eager to add more skills to his resume. He brought his daughter, Madyson, 11, to join him at the workshop. On the second day of carving, Pearce and two other students worked on a series of seahorses.

The bigger blocks, measuring approximately 40 inches tall and 20 inches wide, are the size typically used for sculptures that are displayed with food presentations at events.

Martinez appreciates the work that goes into hand-sculpting a display. “Some people use molds, but that’s not artistic,” Martinez said.

“They have to know how to choose the correct tool to create an effect,” Martinez said. He spent the first day of the workshop teaching the students what task each tool is suited for. Chainsaws are best used to remove large sections of ice and for creating gaps, such as between the spines along the seahorses’ backs. Chisels are used to refine those areas. Grinders are used for details and lettering.

Ice sculpting is a valuable skill to have in the food industry.

“This gives the students an opportunity. For those who are able to and have the time, this [workshop] gives them something different and gets them out of the kitchen,” said Luis Martinez [no relation], the program assistant for the culinary arts and hospitality program.

The World Ice Art Championships provided the program with the perfect venue to offer this special opportunity. Last year, they held a smaller version of the workshop in the classroom.

Student Kevin Macz is in his second year of the culinary program. Macz attended both days of the sculpting workshop. “It’s fun, [I’ve] learned tons,” Macz said as he chiseled away at the base of his seahorse.

Melissa Raimer found the whole experience to be fun. “I though it would be nice to get out in the sun,” Raimer said. “I think my second day is going better than my first.” Raimer is in her second semester in the program.

As each student chiseled away at their sculptures, Pearce and Macz talked about shopping lists and foods for an upcoming event.

“It’s all we do is talk food,” Macz said.

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