INTERVIEW WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: ADRIENNE SCRIMA

November 28th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

Adrienne Scrima is just one semester away from officially being an alumna of Grove City College in western Pennsylvania. When the young journalism student isn’t buried in the stacks at the library or grabbing a latte on campus, she enjoys a good challenge, which is why she started carving watermelons.

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Photo courtesy of Adrienne Scrima

I had the chance to catch up with the Staten Island-native to find out how she got into carving and what’s next for her.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

I’m a journalist finishing up my last semester of school. I also have a side business selling four leaf clovers!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

A few years ago, I saw a carved watermelon online and immediately wanted to try my hand at it. I was decent at carving pumpkins, so it looked like a fun challenge.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

All my creations have been for events, so I make sure that the watermelon carving fits the occasion. For instance, my designs include a church logo for a barbeque, a “50” for a birthday hangout, and a track shoe for a teammate’s grad party. I’ll note that none of these were commissioned — most weren’t even expected by the guests.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

Probably my first one because I still get flack about the circumstances of its making. I have a twin sister and so we shared a high school graduation party. On the day of the party, I spent about four hours making the watermelon while she labored to set up for the party. She wasn’t happy about that.

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

Definitely chunks!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

We’ll see what I get invited to! Once I figure out the occasion, I’ll try to make a fitting design while attempting something new.

UP NEXT: A FASCINATING AND DELICIOUS HISTORY LESSON

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INTERVIEW WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: JEANNE FRATELLO

June 25th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

Jeanne Fratello is a writer whose work includes a blog called Jolly Tomato. She’s also a part-time watermelon carver. Her work above (Olaf from the movie, Frozen) took home second place in the “Funniest Carving” category in last year’s carving contest.

I recently chatted with Manhattan Beach, CA blogger-turned-carver about her love of carving and her plans for this year’s contest.

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TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

I write a blog called Jolly Tomato about fun and nutritious foods for kids and families, so watermelon carving fits right in with that. I also write for two local news and features blogs. When I’m not writing or cooking, I like to swim and hang out at the beach with my family. Also Scrabble — lots of Scrabble.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

When I was little my mom would often carve a watermelon fruit basket for parties, so when I had my own kids I started carving watermelon for their parties, and it kind of took off from there. Basically, now, whenever I have a watermelon, I can’t resist carving it into something. I also like to collect pictures of some of my favorite watermelon carvings on my Pinterest board.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I have a great admiration for people who do exquisite, finely crafted flowers or intricate designs, but my watermelon carvings are a little more basic. Usually I try to carve something funny, or easily recognizable, so when people walk in the room, they say, “Hey, Minecraft!” or whatever, and it becomes a conversation piece.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

I carve a lot of sharks because we seem to have a lot of pool and beach parties. I can make one pretty quickly, and it’s always a hit. One time I carved a giant shark watermelon and I put it in the refrigerator with the teeth facing outward. I sort of forgot it was in there, and when I opened the refrigerator later that night, I gave myself a scare when I was suddenly face-to-face with this enormous mouth full of teeth!

Last summer I carved an Olaf watermelon from Frozen and my neighbor came over while I was taking pictures of it. She was laughing about what a coincidence it was because she was just about to take her daughter to camp and that week they had a Frozen theme. So I gave her the watermelon to take to camp and it was a big hit. That’s basically the perfect outcome for any watermelon carving.

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

So funny you should ask. I’m eating watermelon chunks as I sit here! I’d hate to have to choose just one, but I guess I’d say chunks because they’re really easy to eat, one after another.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I always like to start with popular movies and take a recognizable character from there. This summer I’ll be looking at my kids’ favorite books and games as well. I’m also going to use a few new carving tools that will allow me to add some more delicate details, so I hope my watermelon creations keep getting better and better. I’ll hope to share some with you later this summer!

UP NEXT: How to carve a watermelon panda

Remember, all comments left on the blog this month are entered to win our June prize – a set of watermelon dip bowls – so comment as often as you’d like! 

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INTERVIEW WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: NAN DYE

May 27th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

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Our May watermelon carver interview is with Nan Dye, who was born in Thailand, but now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. She’s a dental assistant, which means she’s good with her hands and a natural watermelon carver.

Nan’s carving in the 2014 Watermelon Carving Contest stood out because it was a beautiful rendition of the contest logo (that’s it below). She took home the second place prize in the “Most Elegant Carving” category and has big plans for this year, too.

Nan and I talked briefly recently about carvings and other watermelon topics, and here’s what she had to say:

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

When I’m not carving, I love to spend time with my family. We often go hiking, kayaking, biking, and experiencing all of the beauty that Tennessee has to offer. I also love cooking Thai meals for my friends and family.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

I love to see the positive reaction on people’s faces when they see my watermelon carvings. Their reactions inspire me to carve even more intricate and beautiful carvings.

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WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I don’t have a specific type of carving that I prefer as I am inspired by all objects that I encounter each day. Since April showers bring May flowers, I find that I have been carving more flowers than usual.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

My most memorable carving was one I did for Chef Aaron McCargo Jr., and was shown on CNN.

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

While both chunks and wedges are great, I prefer to just cut the watermelon in half and dig in with a melon baller!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I plan to donate one carving per month to various retirement communities in my area. I also plan on winning the 2015 Watermelon carving contest! :)

UP NEXT: Making watermelon jelly

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INTERVIEW WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: ANETA LEKAS

April 20th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

This month’s watermelon carver is Aneta Lekas, who’s a regular in our annual carving contest. Aneta was born in Poland immigrated to Canada in 1993.

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She has spent 20 years in the catering industry, but didn’t start carving fruit until 2011. Her skills developed quickly, and she began carving professionally in 2012. Today, Aneta is the founder of Say It With Fruit, a company that creates unforgettable fruit carvings for special events. (You can also check out Say It With Fruit on Facebook.)

Aneta entered several carvings in our 2014 carving contest, and her floral arrangement (below) won third place in the category of “Most Elegant,” and her peacock (right) was the first place winner in the “Animal” category.

I recently had a chance to chat with Aneta about her carving skills, including what inspired her to carve watermelon, her most memorable carving, and what 2015 has in store for her and her carving skills.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

I like to spend time with my family doing different activities. I love to travel. Summer time is camping time. We have a great time with friends enjoying nature. I also spend many hours as a volunteer.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

It was my vacation in Mexico.  The resort we stayed in had so many carved watermelons on the buffet every day. I fell in love with this kind of art and decided to try it myself. First, I tried an online fruit and vegetable carving course. Then I decided to improve my watermelon carving skills, so I traveled to Poland to get professional lessons from carving masters and European champions.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I always liked to sketch with pencil so I transferred that skill from paper to the skin of a watermelon. Carving images and engraving words enables me to personalize watermelons for each person to make them feel special.  Besides that, I love Thai carving. Creating flowers from the three colors of the watermelon is always impressive.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

It was the peacock carved for the competition last year.  I received two awards in two different competitions for it. First place in Best Animal Carving in your carving contest and fourth place in a people’s choice carving competition in Ohio.

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

I usually cut it into wedges. It is faster, but I love when someone cuts it into chunks and serves for me.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I would like Say It With Fruit to be a company recognized for its motto: To Make Everyone Feel Special. My carvings beautify important days in people’s lives, such as weddings and anniversaries, and makes them memorable.

This year, I will be working on new carving designs and improving my carving skills to make every watermelon unique for each person.

I am also planning to do carving presentations for special events in our city, such as the Pan Am Games and organize a fruit carving competition. I want people to be aware that fruit carving exists in Canada and that edible art can make their important events unforgettable!

UP NEXT: 10 facts I’ll bet you didn’t know about Earth Day

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SIX QUESTIONS WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: DUSTIN EVANS

March 18th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

The 2015 Watermelon Carving Contest is still in the planning stages (it’ll kick off in June), but the folks who will be images (1)submitting masterpieces for the competition are busy carving watermelon as we speak. Okay, maybe they’re not carving watermelon right now — although some of them might be — but they’re probably at least thinking about their carvings.

One of those carvers is Dustin Evans of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Dustin was one of the biggest winners in last year’s carving contest, taking home the first place prize in the “Funniest Carving” category, the first place prize in the “Star Spangled Watermelon” category and a third place finish in the “Animal” category.

The most amazing thing about Dustin’s watermelon-carving story is that he’s only been carving for about one year. Actually, the carvings you see in this blog entry — including the gorilla below — were created by Dustin when he had about four months of watermelon-carving experience under his belt. I took some time recently to chat with Dustin about all things watermelon, including his plans for this year’s carving contest.

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TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

When I’m not carving watermelons, you can usually find me at the drawing table in my art studio. I’ve done freelance illustration and graphic design work for comic books, kids’ books and websites for the last 10 years. If I’m not drawing or carving, then you will most likely find me in the kitchen. I have a passion for food, and I love to cook, especially for my family.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

I feel like me carving watermelons was an interesting mix of destiny and happy circumstances. About one year ago, I began working at the Tulsa, Oklahoma Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the banquet kitchen to supplement my freelance income. I’ve always had a passion for food, so it made sense for me to get a job in the kitchen.

I began working in the banquet kitchen, and once my chef learned about my art background, he said he would like me to try my hand at fruit carving. I wasn’t quite sure what that involved at the time, but I started researching the topic, and I was blown away by the amazing creations you can make out of watermelons, fruits and veggies. I gave it a try, and I was instantly hooked. This was a totally new medium for me, and I began learning with each carving I created.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I really like creating portrait etchings in watermelons. I wanted to push the limits of what I had seen examples of, so I started creating portrait carvings of the different celebrities that come to town like ZZ Top (below), Dolly Parton and Joan Jett.

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WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

The most memorable watermelon carvings for me so far are the two carvings I created for Chef Robert Irvine. He came to Hard Rock to do his live show, and I created a portrait carving and a replica of his logo. When Chef Irvine saw the carvings I created, he was so impressed, he wanted to meet me in person. Who knew that carving watermelons would lead to such an incredible experience?

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

I’m a wedge guy! There is nothing better and that wedge of watermelon. It comes with a nifty rind handle that you can hold, which leaves your other hand free to add shake the salt on top. I also really enjoy adding watermelon to smoothies. It just gives you that delicious and refreshing flavor that makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I feel like I have progressed from just carving single watermelons to creating entire displays out of watermelon. I really want to push the boundaries of what is possible and create displays that leave people thinking, “I never thought that was possible!”

One of my BIG goals is to eventually have my carvings featured on Food Network. I want to bring watermelon carving to the forefront of food entertainment. Why not? This year I will continue carving watermelons for the different shows that come to Hard Rock as well as doing some elaborate displays for different holidays.

UP NEXT: Spring has sprung!  

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SIX QUESTIONS WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: LAURA POULSEN

February 18th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

In our first “Interview with a Watermelon Carver” last month, we got to know one of our most entertaining watermelon carving contest participants, Ryan Allison. This month, we talk to Laura Poulsen. pic

Like Ryan, Laura is also a passionate watermelon carver. She enters the carving contest each year, but she also sends photos of her carvings throughout the year to the folks at the National Watermelon Promotion Board. In the 2014 carving contest, she took first place in the Watermelon Basket category (right) and second place in the Star Spangled Watermelon category (below).

I sat down with Laura (she’s from Portland, Oregon) recently — well, I assume she was sitting when she answered my email — and here’s what she had to say about her love of watermelon.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

My husband Stephen and I love to go to antique and collectible shows, and have been doing so for many years. We have quite a collection of small rabbits carved out of every substance you can imagine – amber, turquoise, boxwood and much more. At one time I sewed teddy bears using old, recycled fur coats – I made over 900 of them! And yes, I made a rabbit too!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

It started with me making small garnishes for plates in my deli case. Over time, the garnishes got more creative and elaborate and my carving evolved.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I really love working with watermelon because, for me, it’s a good canvas. With watermelon you have the patterns on the rind as well as the different layers of color (depending on the depth of the cut) to help bring out a design. For example my Cheshire Cat carving worked out so well because of the stripes.

I also love watermelon because it is so easy to carve. Different fruits and vegetables “talk” to me with their shapes and colors. For example, I made love birds out of mangos, an owl out of a pineapple, an Elmo out of red peppers, an octopus out of an eggplant and more.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING? pic

My most memorable watermelon carving is my Cheshire Cat! One day, as my husband was driving me to work, I was fretting about what I would make that day. We were talking about the day and just as he was dropping me off, it came to me! I’m going to make a Cheshire Cat!

My husband’s brother Mark was in town that day and he was going to come in to see me at the store. He has always loved the Alice in Wonderland story and the Cheshire Cat character, so that was how it started. I went to the produce department and saw the perfect watermelons for the project. Mark came in later that day, saw it on the deli counter, and knew right away it was made in his honor.

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

I prefer melon balls! My husband likes wedges.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I’m a crafty person that likes to be creative. I am eager to try new things and learn new techniques. It is sometimes a challenge to come up with the idea for the next project. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to make until the last minute, and sometimes I take inspiration from characters or things from the books.

People come into the store every week just to see what I have created. Sometimes they take pictures to send to friends and family all across the country. I love to make people smile and the carvings become a way to start conversations and make people happy.

UP NEXT: Going for a hike…with watermelon

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SIX QUESTIONS WITH A WATERMELON CARVER: RYAN ALLISON

January 27th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

The highlight of our annual watermelon carving contest — besides the chance to see some incredible carvings — is getting to know some of the talented folks behind those carvings. Until now, I’ve only known them via the emails they send to me when they submit their entry.

In this new monthly blog entry, I’m going to get to know a few of our carving contest entrants a little better by asking them six questions about themselves and their love of watermelon. First up is one of our most memorable watermelon carvers, Ryan Allison. pic

Ryan is a 21-year-old chef from Spokane, Washington. In addition to being a chef at a golf and country club, he’s also started a fruit-carving company called The Garnish Guy.

He’s one of the most prolific carvers in each of the last two carving contests, and he’s also one of most entertaining. One of the requirements for each entry is that the carver must submit a photo of himself or herself with his or her carving. Ryan happily obliges, but he takes the watermelon selfie to a new level, as you can see from the examples above.

Here’s what Ryan had to say in our first of many “Six Questions with a Watermelon Carver” interviews:

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHEN YOU’RE NOT CARVING WATERMELON, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

When not carving watermelon, I enjoy any number of other artistic activities, but I am self-taught in almost everything I do. I like to work with clay and I’m currently working on a tapestry. I also dabble in guitar and have literally just started learning the violin. In my free time, I like to learn new things, because learning new things keeps life from being boing and repetitive, and I am always up for trying new things!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CARVING WATERMELON?

When I was just starting culinary school, a picture of a tiger carved out of watermelon was circling around the internet. Everyone LOVED that tiger, including me, so I took it upon myself to learn another new hobby.

I had no idea what I was doing, so, like any self-taught hobbyist, I Googled it. It was terrible. Then a couple of years ago, I was at a chefs’ convention and met Chef Ray Duey. He taught me the basics in a three day weekend and the rest was up to me. Since then, I have carved for weddings, baby showers, birthdays, and I even raised $500 for a children’s hospital with one of my carvings.

WHAT SORT OF CARVINGS DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE?

I like to create sculpture-type carvings. Don’t get me wrong, I can carve some fantastic flowers, but I like being able to take a piece of watermelon and turn it into someone’s favorite cartoon character, or favorite animal, or anything else that they want. The best feeling is when someone gives you a challenge and you blow their mind.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WATERMELON CARVING?

My most memorable carving (below) was one I did for a friend of mine. He commissioned me to do a carving for his wedding to surprise his then fiancé. We spent an entire year going over the details and he changed his mind a good 30 times before I finally had to take over. The carving had everything he wanted. When he saw it, he cried, his wife cried, and his mother cried. You don’t get that sort of reaction every day.

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WHEN IT COMES TO EATING WATERMELON, DO YOU PREFER CHUNKS OR WEDGES?

Wedges all the way! Wedges have everything you could ask for in a piece of food. It has a handle, all the meat is in one place, and it looks like a slice of pizza!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A CARVER? WHAT WILL YOU BE CARVING THIS YEAR?

I have a wedding lined up, but as far as the contest, you’ll just have to wait and see. I don’t want to give the competition an edge!

UP NEXT: My first New Year’s Resolution recipe attempt!

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