Fruit and Vegetable Splendor.

Today’s blog will be returning to a look at the art of culinary arts presentation. In this case the skills can be used for both savory and sweet applications. Firstly, let’s explore the history of the craft.

Many believe that fruit carving originated in China during the Tang Dynasty, which lasted from AD 618-906. Fruit carving in China usually features legendary creatures, and animals. Not only is fruit carving used in cultural and traditional ceremonies, but also ordinary households are known for decorating plates with fruit carvings when they have guests over. Specifically, watermelon carving has been and still is very popular in China. Usually, the outside of the melon is carved on and the melon pulp is scraped out of the inside of the melon, so it can be used as a container to put food or flowers in. Chinese fruit carving is used to tell their legends and stories.

Japan has also been referred to as the root of the art of fruit and vegetable carving, called Mukimono in Japanese. According to the book “Japanese Garnishes, The Ancient Art of Mukimono”, by Yukiko and Bob Haydok, Mukimono’s origins began in ancient times when food was served on unglazed clay pottery. These rough platters were covered with a leaf before the food was plated. Artistic chefs realized that the cutting or folding of the leaf in different ways created a more attractive presentation. Mukimono did not become popular until the sixteenth century, the Edo period, when Mukimono gained official recognition. At this time, street artists created clever garnishes upon request. From these beginnings the art has developed into a very important part of every Japanese chef’s training.

My own experience with fruit and vegetable carving began early in my culinary arts journey. Having been classically trained in contemporary cuisine, most of the carving skills we used were pretty basic. Some examples would be as follows; tomato rose, orange twists, apple swans and so on. Later in my career, I had the distinct pleasure of working with multinational brigade of chefs and cooks at one of Canada’s leading private clubs. One of the team was a specialist in elaborate display carvings and fine pastry. Her name was Wanni, she emigrated from Thailand in the late 80’s with her husband, also a chef, Esidang. His specialty, shared with mine at the time, ice carving. We will also discuss this topic at a later date. Anyway, back to Wanni. One of the finest, gracious people I have ever known. She embodied all that a chef should be, she was always willing to share her knowledge! And very patient. Even when I took on the daugnting task of teaching post secondary culinary arts, she would freely make herself available to teach students basic elements of fruit and vegetable carving. The following pdf files are samples of her techniques. Enjoy!

Thanks again for dropping by, lots more exciting stuff coming soon. Have a great weekend!