Weird Job: Get Paid to Play With Your Food as a Food Sculptor

Image: Sarah Kaufman, cheese carver
Joe Shlabotnik under Creative Commons

This post is part of our series on Weird Jobs. Check out the other articles to learn about more weird jobs you could try!

Did you like to play with your food as a child? Do you still enjoy fashioning landmarks out of your mashed potatoes? Then you might have what it takes to make money as a food sculptor.

We’re not kidding — it’s a real job. Let’s take a look at a few of the people who actually get paid to create art out of food.

Sarah the Cheese Lady

While most food sculptors are self-employed,Sarah Kaufmann started sculpting cheese as part of her job. She was the Creative Director for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board when she learned how to make cheese sculptures for their promotional events. She even created a cheese-carving training program to show others how it’s done.

She later went out on her own, and has since created many sculptures, large and small — all from cheese. Her 925-pound cheese roller coaster, done in 2011, was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cheese carving. Some of her other works include:

  • An aircraft carrier (six feet long)
  • Mickey Mouse (120 pounds)
  • An alligator (six feet long)
  • A gorilla (300 pounds)
  • Numerous celebrities (including Jay Leno, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Al Roker and John Madden)

Sarah is regularly hired to create cheesy art for food and wine festivals, sporting events, store openings and state fairs. You can see her working on a 2,000-pound sculpture on YouTube, and she has dozens of photos of her cheese sculptures on her website.

Food Sculptor Jim Victor

Jim Victor carves cheese too, but that’s just one of his mediums. He and his wife, Marie Pelton, are paid to create sculptures out of butter, chocolate and vegetables too. He’s been an artist and teacher for over 30 years, and she’s a graduate of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

One of Victor’s biggest assignments was cutting the cheese to create a 3,000-pound replica of NASCAR racer Terry Labonte’s No. 5 Chevrolet. His other works include a 1,000-pound “farm family” sculpture made from butter and a chocolate carving of Milton Hershey. Victor and Pelton have traveled for commissioned work all over the U.S., and as far away as China.

Pumpkin Carver Ray Villafane

Sculptor Ray Villafane specializes in pumpkin carving. But you won’t see the typical triangles for eyes and jagged line for a mouth on his pumpkins. The faces he carves are hyper-realistic and alternately horrifying, funny or just fascinating.

You might think it’s tough to keep busy as a pumpkin carver, but a look at Villafane’s schedule shows he has upcoming events in Germany, Switzerland, Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii — and those are just his September and October bookings.

Villafane has expanded his business into a product line that includes T-shirts and pumpkin-carving tool kits. He also sells DVD tutorials, although if you watch the sample video he has on YouTube, you might wonder if you can ever really create something as intricate and artistic as what he does.

His advice, if you want to create a truly three-dimensional pumpkin carving, is to “push the limits and use ALL of the pumpkin depth that you have available without breaking through.” For faces, he says to carve deepest in the eye area and just under the nose.

Other Food Sculptors

Here are a few other food sculptors, along with some notes about the work they do:

Jason Mecier: He does portraits and mosaics using candy, cookies, beans, pretzels, noodles and potato chips.

Carl Warner: Broccoli becomes trees, potatoes are rocks, and red onions are hot air balloons in the pastoral scenes created by Warner.

Mike McCarey: His edible cake and pastry sculptures include dinosaurs, dogs and luggage. Every creation is unique, so clients have to schedule a consultation to have a cake made for a wedding or other event.

Ray Duey: Melons, apples and other fruit become beautiful, intricate and edible table arrangements, thanks to this award-winning food sculptor.

In case you weren’t counting, we’ve mentioned 16 different foods that have been used as artistic mediums. And there are certainly more. In other words, there is probably something in your kitchen right now that you can use if you want to start a career as a food sculptor.

Your Turn: What’s the most artistic creation you’ve made from food?