Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sugar Art

I must say that some of the most impressive and downright gorgeous creations that I've seen lately is sugar art. Last night the food channel had a pastry competition that was held in 2004 for the best pastry chef world title. They had to create two sculptures, one sugar, one chocolate, along with a ton of yummy little edible goodies. 

The favorites were the American, French, Belgian and Japanese. The Americans, led by a French chef living and working here, did win the overall title. But the dark horse that won the artistic expression portion were the Koreans.

To me, sugar art looks like delicate glass. I've always been fascinated by glass, and it's a wonder that it never became my medium. Nothing makes light the star of the show like glass. The chocolate sculptures were impressive, but the sugar art lifted the idea of sculpture to a whole new level.

The Koreans created a ball of color that somehow had a vortex worked into the center...the judges were amazed, I guess no one was paying attention to them when it was created and I was so disappointed to not see how they got the effect. On top of this ball they had a huge fire red was just gorgeous and probably around two feet high. There was another piece on top of that, but honestly I can't remember what it was, even though it too was beautiful. My eyes kept staring at that dragon and the way the light passed through was mesmerizing.
Really, all the sugar pieces were gorgeous...the Belgians even had a 3 foot wide ribbon attached! The pieces all had to be moved to a table to prove that the structure principles were also sound.  

I am not just impressed with the beauty...I am impressed with the skill of the artists. Sugar is an amazingly difficult medium to work with. It's scalding hot to begin with, it has to be cooled to where it is malleable but too much, too fast and it will just crack in two (or twenty) pieces. If poured incorrectly it forms bubbles to mar the clearness, if pulled sugar isn't done right it loses the shine. Humidity affects the setting of it, I've seen pieces just disintegrate during the moving process. 

When I think of pastry chef I think of, well, pastry. I can see where making the best pastry in the world could be considered an art...a craft done to its zenith. But this...they are truly artisans at the top of the art game. Their work is sheer poetry and I saw some representations of things like fire that put me to shame...not only creative but exquisite. 

I tried to find some photos of the Korean entry and didn't have any luck, but here's a link to this year's entries for the same competition. Enjoy!