WCCC culinary art students break the ice on sculpting work
Westmoreland County Community College culinary art students who are learning the art of cooking and baking, brandished different kind of sharp utensils Thursday to fine tune creations that a professional ice sculptor carved out of 265-pound blocks of ice.
Jared McAlister, an ice sculptor for DiMartino Ice Co. of Jeannette, demonstrated to about a dozen culinary art students. He showed them how to take a block of ice — 40 inches tall, 20 inches wide and 10 inches thick — and sculpt it with a chain saw into a piece of art. Teams of two students added details to a swan and a heart with chisels and ice-cutting blades.
Culinary art student Marcus Mullen of Greensburg, armed with an ice chisel, was figuring out how to attack the block of ice, a task he had never tried before.
Knowing how to chisel a block of ice into an attractive piece of art is part of the required learning experience in the culinary art program, said Chef Scott Schmucker, assistant professor of culinary arts and hospitality programs at the Youngwood-based college. The students were learning to be a garde manger, which is French for keeper of the food. It is the cook who prepares dishes for the cold food station, where salads, pates, terrines, hors d’oeuvres and fresh sausage are displayed, Schmucker said.
Using the chain saw is the “grunt work” of sculpting the block of ice, McAlister said.
“It’s an awkward piece of equipment to use,” he said, and even some longtime ice sculptors “don’t quite get it.”
When they are confronted with sculpting a block of ice in their career, McAlister told the students it is best to pull the ice out of the freezer and expose it to air that is room temperature, possibly for as along as 45 minutes.
If not, cutting ice just out of the freezer “could break the whole block,” McAlister said.
The ice sculpting demonstration was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Family, Career and Community Leaders of America cooking competition that drew about 75 career and technology high students who were staying at Seven Springs Mountain Resort near Champion for a statewide conference. The students were making a meal of fried salmon, red potatoes, sauteed asparagus and a fresh fruit parfait for the contest.
The timing of the ice sculpting “is a way to highlight our programs with all the students visiting,” said Cheryl Shipley, assistant professor of culinary arts and hospitality program.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .