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about food edible art
BY MICHAEL L. JONES | PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAN DRY
The Art of Edible Art Being chef and co-owner of an Italian restaurant is not all about pasta and veal scaloppini, at least not for Joshua Moore, executive chef of Volare Italian restaurant, 2300 Frankfort Avenue. For three years or so, Moore has applied himself to another passion, mastering the classical French pastry technique known as sugar art, made familiar to many of us by television host Warren Brown on his Television Food Network show Sugar Rush. Moore melts, mixes, spins, blows and otherwise manipulates sugar and sugary products into fantastic shapes and gorgeous sculptures. At first Moore spent his time crafting edible, lifelike roses and hollowed apples to accompany the desserts at the restaurant. But recently, he’s tried more elaborate sculptures that seem more appropriate for the Speed Art Museum than a fine dining establishment. As of this writing, his most recent creation was “Fish Tank,” a still-life set inside an aquarium, which was displayed under glass in the Volare dining room. “Fish Tank” was crafted out of 40 pounds of sugar using a variety of techniques: poured sugar, pressed sugar, blown sugar, bubble sugar, and pastillage, a sugar dough made with powdered sugar, that can be shaped, sanded, and airbrushed. Taken together, the bright, colorful pieces looked like something out of a Pixar movie. The tank water was represented by large, blue bubbles of blown sugar. The sea life, which included starfish and snails, was made of pastillage and isomalt, a sugar product more stable than table sugar. Sugar figurines were created for festivals as far back as the Ottoman Empire, and in France, dessert makers have a tradition of sugar art that dates back to the 1600s. Today, sugar artists often compete in shows created just for them. David Watson, a pastry chef and instructor at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, has even held exhibitions of his work where the figures sell for $200 to $500 each. Moore was initiated into the world of sugar art after he hired a line cook who had studied pastry-making in France. The cook claimed to have tried teaching 100 people before Moore, but only two mastered the craft. After only a few lessons, Moore was serving his edible roses with the tiramisu and filling hollow, bright-red sugar apples with pound cake and berries. Even now Moore spends at least eight hours a week crafting edible garnishes because they don’t last a long time. Unlike his 34 Winter 2010 www.foodanddine.com
show pieces, Moore uses only table sugar in the fruit pieces, and humidity will cause them to crystallize. Moore said every time he touches the sugar he gets new ideas for future projects. For a while Moore worked with a sous chef, Jeremiah Brown, who also made sugar pieces, but since Brown left Volare none of the other cooks have shown an interest in learning the sugar art.