If you’re looking for an inspirational kick in the butt before you get started on your Watermelon Carving Contest entry (did I mention the $500 grand prize?), you’ll get it from carving expert Hugh McMahon. I interviewed him last year and have decided to repost that interview today.
Pretty much everyone has carved a pumpkin at some point, typically around Halloween and usually in the old “triangle eyes and toothy grin” jack-o-lantern style. Of course, you can also carve watermelon, but until there’s a holiday that turns watermelon carving into a tradition – in the same way the egg enthusiasts scored a win with Easter – most people will probably never carve a watermelon.
By “most people,” I’m definitely not referring to artist Hugh McMahon. Hugh is an artistic genius when it comes to carving pumpkins and watermelons. His creations (a sampling of which can be seen on the right) have been featured worldwide in restaurants, events, magazines, books and on TV.
Hugh’s specialty is celebrity portraits carved on pumpkins, including designs created for Ronald Reagan and Martha Stewart, but his elaborate floral watermelon centerpieces are equally stunning. (Check out the video of Hugh in action at the bottom of this entry.) I recently had an opportunity to interview Hugh about his handiwork, and here’s what he had to say.
Q: Thanks for taking some time to chat, Hugh. I know you’re pretty busy these days. What sorts of designs are on your radar in the near future? (NOTE: This interview was conducted a year ago.)
I just did a Mardi Gras party in New York where I carved watermelon portraits of actors Susan Sarandon and Luis Guzman. They were the king and queen of the ball. I do a good watermelon carving of a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day. Right now I am in talks to do some carving in Mexico. This summer I’ll be carving at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY, and at the Bloomsburg Fair in Pennsylvania. I also have a children’s book coming out this fall with Dial Books. Michael Rosen wrote the story and I carved the visuals.
Q: How is carving a watermelon different from carving a pumpkin? Does each offer its own unique advantages?
Carving the watermelon is more messy and sticky, but what I like about the watermelon is that it’s more colorful.
Q: What’s the most unusual design you’ve ever been asked to carve?
I once carved a bullfight in many watermelons for a Marriott Marquis tapas station at a party. I also carved the life history of James Beard for the James Beard Foundation in 15 watermelons. You can find me carving a portrait of James Beard on the video below. You can also see watermelons on my webpage, gochelsea.com/pumpkins.
Q: What do you do with all the watermelon that you scoop out of each creation? I ask because I carved a watermelon once, and I pretty much ate everything as I was scooping it out. It’s not something I’m proud of (neither the carving nor the gluttony). I guess the real question is: Do you enjoy eating watermelons as much as you enjoy carving them?
I do eat some as I am cleaning it out, but most of it I squeeze into watermelon juice. I prefer it that way. I drank some fresh-squeezed watermelon yesterday.
Q: Have you ever considered branching out beyond pumpkins and watermelon and carving other fruits and vegetables? Could there be a cucumber or cantaloupe sculpture somewhere in your future?
I do carve other fruits and vegetables. I’ve carved apples for the cover of Time Out New York magazine, and I’ve carved cantaloupe, squash, peppers. I’ve also created bread sculptures. For the children’s book coming out this summer, I did some carvings with turnips, peppers and broccoli.