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An Icy Assignment

The sound of chainsaws echoed through the AB Tech Asheville campus. It wasn’t a construction crew, but a culinary arts class, learning how to sculpt ice.  Fourteen students paired in teams of two were scattered across the porch of the Magnolia building. Instructor Chef John Hofland was overseeing the students as they sawed and chopped their way through blocks of ice.

Instructor/Chef John Hofland,  “It’s a Garmage class. It’s the art and craft of the cold kitchen, so that’s cold sauces and soups, Charcuterie, that type of thing.  The reason we teach the ice sculpting, because they look absolutely brilliant on a buffet. Some of the students will pursue this profession, it is sort of that value added you need when you are selling yourself if you can say you can carve ice, you are far more valuable.   

Habiba Smallen, “I’ve never carved with ice before, This is a first for all of us.”

Joshua Bisset  “The assignment is,  yesterday we made a template of fish in demo, today we got to carve it out of an ice block.” 

HC: " What kind of tools did you use? :

Joshua Bisset: "Chain saws, dremel and some hand chisels”

John Hofland,   “I picked the fish  because it is fairly complicated for a first piece and  gives them a lot of ideas about depth and perception.  They all do the same pieces so I can sort of let them see what they are doing in comparison to other students, so maybe they get some ideas and do a better job.

“Ours at least look like a fish, “ said Kevin Chrisman, “Hardest part was punching through the ice, the first cut is kind of hard, because you almost push it over. If it breaks, well you’re kind of,  you don’t get to carve anymore, because you don’t have any ice.

HC: Have you ever done anything like this before? 

Kevin Chrisman, "I've cut down trees with chain saws but never tried to make something look nice with a chain saw, it’s definitely different”  

HC: “Chainsaws not a tool you often see in the kitchen.”

Chef/Instructor John Hofland: “ No with 14 students yielding chainsaws it’s one of the most nerve wracking days I have during the whole semester, so I look forward to having this done, (laughs) Although I do love to carve ice.  I was a professional chef for about 21 years and I did ice carvings for our buffets, so I do have fun with it.”

Joshua Bisset, “A lot of us were pretty intimidated.  But once you started carving away at the ice it became a lot more forgiving more than any of us had anticipated.  Just kind of got lost in it.”

HC:  Is this a fun class, sounds like you have a lot of fun.

Instructor/Chef John Hofland, “Yeah, you know, Our profession is a lot of work. When you can have fun with it that’s what matters.  Comradery, the fun you can have in the kitchen when you work a twelve hour day, that’s what makes it happen.  And they all love food, and if they’ve made it this far at AB Tech, they are all second year students, they’re going to probably do quite well in the business, I’m excited about that.”

HC:  They are nearing the end. Your critique?

Instructor/Chef John Hofland  “We have about 4 pieces that if I was a student and this was the first time, I’d be quite proud of, and then we have some pieces that I think the students would be happy to watch melt in the sun today (laughs).”

From the icy porch of the Magnolia building on the AB Tech Campus in Asheville, I’m Helen Chickering, WCQS news.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.