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Ice Carving 101

 Enrolling in culinary school at a community college, I never thought I'd learn skills as obscure as ice carving, nor did I think I'd get to wield a chainsaw as part of class. But here we are.

This semester, I'm enrolled in Intro to Garde Manger. Garde manger literally means "keeper of the food," but it refers to the production of foods to be served cold—things like salads, cold soups and sauces, hors d'oeuvres, and pates and terrines.

Because many of these foods are served at buffets and other fancy events, garde manger chefs are also tasked with planning menus and decor, which is why fruit and ice carving are often taught in this class.

My class was lucky enough to have as a guest instructor master ice sculptor Nick Hartmann (if you need an ice carving in or near Birmingham, give him a call!), whose patience and knowledge were very helpful.

The ice-carving process is deceptively simple—you enlarge your pattern onto a 20- by 40-inch piece of paper, trace it onto the ice with a Dremel tool, and then go crazy with chainsaws, angle grinders, and an assortment of chisels to finalize your design.

I sketched out a Grecian urn-looking thing whose only real difficult element was some thin, U-shaped handles on the sides. The easiest way to do this, Nick told me, is to cut the handles out of pieces of scrap ice and fuse them on later. I made 4 handles, just to be safe. The ones in the photo below are the final two handles. Big surprise.

Okay, it looks a little janky, but not bad for a first try, right? Well, about 3 seconds after this photo was taken, as we were loading my sculpture onto a dolly to carry it back into the freezer, one of the handles fell off and shattered into a million pieces. I don't think I have much of a career in ice sculpture ahead of me, but it's an item to check off the ol' bucket list.