On April 19-20, Steve Weiss, a chef from the Food Network came to Millbrook to demonstrate how he does the art of sugar sculpting. Using sugar, Mr Weiss created a lobster, a fish, a snowman, a swan, a person and ribbon candy. He also made sugar shells and wings so that students could pass them around and feel the sugar. Mr. Weiss came to Millbrook because “I find that a lot of students don’t really know about different opportunities and where to can find them. Also the mediums that we (sugar sculptors) work with are not what regular artist work in. Sugar and chocolate are different and I just wanted to expose everyone here to unusual techniques and ideas. They (young adults) see this stuff on TV, but they really don’t see it the way they can see it up close and in person. It also might influence someone to pursue this career.” Steve Weiss not only works with the Food Network but he teaches two classes a week that are about four hours long. “My students make smaller scale versions of what I made here at Millbrook. They get to work with different things and I teach them step by step on what to do.” One of his students’ final projects is to create the Eiffel Tower out of chocolate.
He started as an engineer and went to college for engineering. “I wanted to be an automotive designer but I transitioned into commercial art/graphic art in my early twenties. I decided that I wanted to became a chef so I went culinary school. I wanted to have a profession that can keep me going for a long period of time. I always had a fondness for service. I wanted to serve people and make great food, but the real thing is that I wanted to make it a wow factor. I wanted to wow people, so I sought out things that can make people go wow.”
Early on, he decided on doing something culinary. “In the beginning I was exposed to a lot of what food has to offer by going on trips with my parents and being exposed to different restaurants and meeting the chefs and going into the kitchens.” It also helped that his mother had an Italian restaurant so that fueled the fire for the fondness in culinary arts.
His favorite thing he has ever made is not what some may think since he does sculptures of sugar, but it’s savory items. “Even though I work with a lot of sweet things, my favorite thing to prepare is savory items more of like a vegetable and meat type of things, but as far as sweet goes, cookies would be my favorite to make.”
Mr. Weiss has been on the Food Network for fifteen years and there are two competitions that stand out the most for him. “One of my very first competitions I had to create something that was tall and fragile. I also had to go through an obstacle course while carrying the sculpture. The sugar structure was about nine feet tall and one of the obstacles was going under a six foot pole, so I had to change my design. At the very end of the obstacle course my sculpture started to fall back and I had to catch it with my forehead, it was pretty funny since it was on camera. There were only two chefs (I was one of them) out of five that made it through the obstacle course without their sculptures shattering. Another competition he remembers most was one of the hardest he had to do. During that competition his group had to create the Peanuts characters (Charlie Brown, Sally Brown and Snoopy). “It was one of the hardest things I had to make because of the sizing and the details that needed to go into it. Also the judge’s daughter grew up with the Peanuts characters so if something was the slightest bit out of place she would point it out.
It took Mr. Weiss twenty-five years to master sugar sculpting and he is one of the only chefs in America that works with sugar to sculpt. “This profession has taken me a lot of places that I never thought I would go and I have worked with a lot of different people.” He would encourage aspiring chefs and anyone who is deciding what career path they want to go that “when it comes to your profession, choose something that you will enjoy doing for a long time. You have to wake up every morning wanting to go where that job is.”
Written By Emily Keller and Anica Moran