The 2015 Watermelon Carving Contest is still in the planning stages (it’ll kick off in June), but the folks who will be 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.
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.
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!