Michael Davis, sous chef at the Oread hotel, doesn’t just make meals with food — he makes art.
Davis, who has been carving fruit for five and a half years, gave a demonstration to culinary arts students and anyone else interested in learning how to carve melons March 7 at the Oread.
“It’s a pretty small community, especially in the Midwest,” Davis said. “To my knowledge, I’m the only (fruit-carver) in Lawrence, but there might be more.”
Davis usually carves flowers into honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon, but he can create different designs on most fruits or vegetables. He’s made everything from frogs in cucumbers to names and school emblems. He said letters and words are the most difficult because they are exact, and if he makes a mistake, he can’t exactly grab an eraser.
“The good thing is unlike art that’s on paper, if you mess up, you can eat it,” Davis said.
Davis first began carving produce while working at Kansas University. He worked with a Burmese man who carved fruit, and it sparked his interest. Davis used YouTube instructional videos to teach himself. His first carving was a flower on a honeydew, and it took him about 45 minutes. Now, the same design takes him 10 minutes to carve.
Before working as a sous chef at the Oread, Davis was a line cook at the Eldridge Hotel, which is where he began making his art for work. He showed the chef he could do it, and Davis began making designs for buffets or special occasions.
At the Oread, the number of carvings depends on how busy it is in the banquet department. Some weeks he has as little as one carving to make, while others he makes as many as 10. He said customers can put in a request if they’re interested, and the Oread will do its best to fulfill their needs.
“I try to add value for our customer to make their dining experience more exciting or memorable,” Davis said.
Lawrence resident Ann Ozorkiewicz heard about the fruit-carving demonstration and wanted to see Davis in action.
“I was just curious ... I’m always interested in learning something new,” she said.
After watching him, Ozorkiewicz said she’s going to try to make some of the fruit pieces herself, just nothing as intricate as Davis’ designs.
Davis said new carvers wanting to learn how to create their own edible art should utilize the Internet by looking up videos on YouTube to help them practice. He also recommends finding a mentor and asking questions.
“I’d be willing to teach people wanting to know,” Davis said. “I’d love that.”