Chef Garnish Culinary Art

Ray Duey, CEC, on Winning Food Network Challenge Team

Fruit carving class at the Naval Facility in Great Lakes, Illinois, May 23rd, 2008

Vegetable and fruit carving article from The New York Times May 14th, 2008

Fruit and vegetable carving article in the Fresno Bee, June 6th, 2007

September 2004 fruit and vegetable carving cover shot for Catersource Magazine.

Fruit and vegetable carving news from The National Restaurant Show in Chicago, May 22nd, 2005

Ray Duey, CEC, on Winning Food Network Challenge Team

Duey Joins James Parker for a Fruit-and-Vegetable Sculpture Competition Rematch Airing May 18 on the Food Network

St. Augustine, Fla., May 19, 2008 - Ray Duey, CEC, owner, Chef Ray Presents, Woodbridge, Calif., joined James Parker, owner, Veggy Art, Chantilly, Va., in the Food Network Challenge, "The Rematch: Fantasy Fruit Sculpture," which aired May 18. Parker was named champion and Duey, who worked as his assistant on the challenge, won a gold medal.

The Food Network Challenge features four contestants as they battle it out for a gold medal and $10,000 cash prize. Competitors and their assistants have a few hours to prove their skill and present their final creation to a panel of judges. On the original show, "Fantasy Fruit Sculptures," which aired September 2, 2007, contestants raced to transform more than 100 pounds of fruit and vegetables into towering sculptures in Hawaii.

In the rematch, the same competitors returned with the challenge to create "tropical treasures," fruit-and-vegetable sculptures. Douglas St. Souver, a former student of Duey's, was the reigning champion. The show was filmed in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on February 19.

Parker and Duey's winning sculpture, "Treasures Lost, Paradise Found," towered over six feet tall. The immaculate sculpture portrayed the bottom of the sea with a treasure chest and shipwrecked vessel on shore. Thai carved melons were stacked high and a sun sculpture sat on top. On the backside, a working waterfall cascaded down and there were tropical birds, a papaya snake and various tropical flowers, made of candy cane beets, rutabagas, turnips, chili peppers and rhubarb.

Winning sculpture"Once the clock expired there was a temporary sigh of relief, but the real sense of finality was when they declared the winner," Duey says.

Duey, a certified executive chef and member of ACF California Capital Chefs Association, has spent the last two decades developing his skill and creating fruit-and-vegetable carvings for weddings, events, classes and seminars. In 2004, he opened Chef Ray Presents, where he teaches the specialized art form to a wide variety of professionals across the United States. Duey has received numerous awards in national and international competitions. In addition, he is also corporate executive chef at Buffet Euro, San Francisco, Calif. For more information visit,

"The Rematch: Fantasy Fruit Sculpture" Food Network Challenge is now airing on the Food Network. Visit for air times.

The American Culinary Federation, Inc., established in 1929, is the premier professional organization for culinarians in North America. With 20,000 members spanning more than 230 chapters nationwide, ACF is the culinary leader in offering educational resources, training, apprenticeship and accreditation. In addition, ACF operates the most comprehensive certification program for chefs in the United States. ACF is home to ACF Culinary Team USA, the official representative for the United States in major international culinary competitions, and also holds the presidium for the World Association of Chefs Societies, the largest international network of chef associations with more than 8 million members globally. For more information, please visit

back to top

Food network chef at Culinary School

TSC Public Affairs

A familiar face from the Food Network was one of the presenters at the Culinary Specialists ‘A’ School at Great Lakes third Chicagoland Food Safety and Management Certification symposium held this week.

Chef Ray Duey, is noted for working magic on fruits and vegetables, carving works of art that have earned him world renown. He brought his message of put¬ting the wow factor in food, a necessary ingredient, he feels, for boosting morale.

Duey, who has given pre-sentations to military culi¬nary specialists including the Coast Guard Academy and on board Navy ships, says that food is the most important commodity on board.

“If you are at sea without fuel or bullets, then you can figure out a way to work around it, but if you are with¬out food, nobody feels like doing their job,” he said.

The humble chef says he enjoys passing his expertise on to his military colleagues.
“The military is the reason I am a free person, it should be my obligation to give back to the people that protect my freedom, it’s an¬other way to make their lives a little better and for me to get a better appreciation of what they do.”

He also says he appreciates how much more a culi¬nary specialist deals with as an active duty Sailor, such as being a crewmember in addi¬tion to preparing food.

“They have so much more to deal with than a chef in the civilian world, like a man overboard drill in the middle of the night,” he said.

Duey says he wants to alter his audiences thinking regarding food preparation, by being aware of other cul¬tures and influences. He en¬courages them to take time during port visits to look for local flavors they may be able to bring back to the ship to in¬corporate in their meals.

Preparing meals for as many as 5,000 hungry Sailors is also becoming more in de¬mand in the civilian world, according to Duey. He also cites training and certification in software, food safety and inventory control as
highly marketable skills.

“Military feeding is large scale feeding, it is becoming more and more in demand in the civilian world: resorts, ho¬tels, conferences, people are looking for someone that not only read how to feed 5,000 but have actually done it. The military gives you that oppor-tunity to have that experience that most culinary students are lacking.”

Duey also encourages Sailors to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about their craft at events such as the Symposium, which offers cer-tification in various profes¬sional areas. Active duty members were able to take advantage of the course through the Navy COOL pro¬gram.

“One thing I want them to know is that these Sailors are working for the government, and in return, the govern¬ment is offering them oppor¬tunities to learn, they should seize every opportunity they can,” he said.

Duey is appearing this week on the Food Network Challenge, “Fantasy Fruit Sculpture.”

back to top

What a cut up
Artist turns fruits and vegetables into art with a turn of a knife.
By Joan Obra / The Fresno Bee
06/06/07 04:28:39

Forget what they say about not playing with food -- or knives. Ray Duey does both, and the results are unexpected. A turnip turns into a daisy, an eggplant into a leaf and an avocado into a hand grenade.

Duey, an acclaimed produce carver from Torrance, recently showed off some of his tricks at Fresno State. It's his second class for local members of the American Culinary Federation Chefs Association. The first was so popular, the crowd clamored for more, says Bruce Staebler, president of the association's San Joaquin chapter.

There's a reason these folks want to carve flowers from food, and it's not just the cool factor. This Far Eastern culinary art is spreading from cruise ships to more hotels, country clubs and restaurants. Money is to be made in this trend, and accomplished carvers such as Duey can make $250,000 a year. The typical salary, he says, is between $40,000 and $70,000.

Duey draws more business by challenging himself with different carvings, such as a butterfly from a grape. He also pays attention to pop culture.

"Of all the carvings that you should master this year, you should have 'Shrek' down to a science," he says to his class. "You should have 'Pirates of the Caribbean' down to a sci- ence. You should have 'Spider-Man' down to a science."

If the professional cooks in Duey's class heed his advice, local diners may see more edible art on their plates.

But Duey also has a message for home cooks: Some of these carvings, including the turnip daisy and eggplant leaves, are easy enough for them to try. See for yourself in this story on You'll find a video of Duey carving and another one of him teaching.

Both videos show techniques that differ from chopping, mincing and dicing. Instead, carving requires making curved cuts with small, sharp tools. Check them out at, Duey's Web site. In the products section, there are u-and-v cutters (that make u-and-v shapes) and Thai-style flexible knives. Both help save the wrists from fatigue, Duey says.

He also offers tips for buying produce. Any fruit and vegetable can be carved, as long as it's firm.

"You want them to have no give to them at all," he says. For example, if a melon is ripe enough to have an aroma, it's too soft to carve.

If you buy some tools and create something beautiful, Duey even has advice for preserving your handiwork. Spray it with original PAM cooking spray. It will prevent carvings from drying out or turning cloudy when refrigerated.

Covered with a wet paper towel and plastic wrap, a melon carving sprayed with PAM can keep in the refrigerator about a week -- enough time for you to practice a more complex piece.

"Once you've mastered the technique and you are not afraid," Duey says, "you can take it to the next level."

back to top

The wow factor: food as fashion
May 22, 2005

Chef Ray Duey of Torrance, Calif., used apples, melons and other fruits as his medium to work some magic for a crowd of mesmerized on-lookers at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held at Chicago's McCormick Place May 21-25.

He took one green apple, sliced some layers and arranged the pieces to first resemble a butterfly, and then -- just minutes later -- a swan.

"Why should you pay for a florist when your food can speak for itself?" he asked. Duey, the corporate executive chef for Buffet Euro, has been practicing food art for years.

back to top

AIFD Symposium in Kansas City in July. Chef James Parker and I gave a 45 minute demo to our fellow artists in the floral industry !

Carving out a niche

November/December 2012 California Bountiful magazine 
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Matt Salvo

California chef makes his mark as a food sculptor.

More online: Video

Chef Ray Duey specializes in the art of fruit and vegetable carving.

Chef Ray Duey is cutting up in the kitchen. In more ways than one.

"OK," he says, sizing up his audience of two: reporter and photographer. "This will take two minutes and 30 seconds. You have to watch quickly. I can't go slow."

With that, Duey presses a button on his MP3 player, centers a cantaloupe on the cutting board and picks up a knife. His first slice into the melon coincides with the opening notes of the 1958 hit "Johnny B. Goode."

In sync with Chuck Berry's guitar riffs and catchy vocals, Duey's left hand turns the melon clockwise as his right hand guides the tools—knives as well as U- and V-shaped cutters—to shape fruit into flower. Each turn of the melon reveals another layer of orange petals as the rind slips away.

The chef is making what he calls a layered cantaloupe, and the delicate intricacy of his work seems oddly in harmony with the rock 'n' roll that blasts from the speakers.

"Go, Johnny, go, go." As he works, Duey sways his hips and adds a few vocals to the performance—all while maintaining a patter of cooking tips, one-liners and opinions on topics that range from cats to compost.

Then, at the exact moment the last note sounds, he sets down the tools and presents the finished sculpture with a sweep of his hand.

"There you go. A thing of beauty created in, let's see, two minutes and 30 seconds," he says with a laugh. "What a coincidence."

Within the next quarter-hour, Duey will have created a butternut squash vase and filled it with flowers to the beat of the Spanish dance hit "Macarena" and turned both a honeydew and a potato into a rose—the latter with Bette Midler providing musical inspiration. By morning's end, he's also got a complete Christmas scene sitting on the kitchen table.

The honeydew melon is one of chef Ray Duey's favorite items to carve. Watermelon, peppers, carrots and potatoes round out his top five.

Welcome to the world of "Chef Garnish." The culinary artist calls San Joaquin County home, but he's on the road more often than not, teaching the art of fruit and vegetable carving in a style somewhere between classroom instructor and carnival hawker. His audiences number from a few dozen to a few thousand, from amateurs to experts.

"I'm a chef by training, but I use my skills in food presentation to get people excited about food and to unleash the artist that's hidden inside every person on this planet," he says. "There's artistry in every human being, and it's my job to use my skills to unlock those artists and turn them loose."

Duey works his magic at private classes and events such as fairs, festivals and conferences. And when he's not teaching the art, he's creating it for clients across the country.

Duey uses the cut side of a beet to tint a turnip daisy.

The chef frequently makes the 350-mile drive to Los Angeles to carve fruits and vegetables into movie props. He once spent 10 solid hours creating a five-watermelon version of the Last Supper. He and a team of similarly talented individuals have carved Halloween pumpkins for the White House. He says his weirdest creation to date is an avocado grenade, which resulted from a dare at a trade show and took all of 10 seconds to make.

Duey estimates he's made more than 100,000 food sculptures in his career and insists there is no fruit or vegetable that cannot be carved into something dramatic.

The Washington state native says his start with the specialized art form of produce carving was born out of desperation. His boss at the time, a restaurant chef, told the newbie to prepare some garnishes for food trays. Duey said he couldn't do it, and his boss said he'd be fired if he didn't.

Butternut squash vase.

"So I went back and I faked it until I made it," he says. "You fake it until you make it. Everybody does that at least one time in their lives, whether they admit it or not."

That was 28 years ago. And although Duey doesn't remember exactly what he made that day—he says he's sure it's something that by current standards would be considered compostable—he knows it saved his job and helped him carve a niche in the competitive business of food service.

"From those humble beginnings, my fear of trying new adventure became palatable, then became acceptable, then became standard operating procedure, then became fun and now is bordering between passion and obsession," he says.

That obsession carries over into trips to his neighborhood grocery store, the chef says, acknowledging that he sees the items in the produce department from a rather unique perspective.

A kale wreath decorated with bell pepper poinsettias and cucumber holly encircles a pineapple Christmas tree and a candle made from a turnip, daikon radish, orange and bell pepper. An apple luminaria accompanies the display.

"Bell peppers are poinsettias to me," he says. "Potatoes are vibrant red roses. Carrots are intricate butterflies."

Duey's goal—through his classes as well as the instructional DVDs, patterns and manuals he sells—goes well beyond teaching people how to make bumblebees out of olives and frozen peas (although that happens, too).

"When you teach people a skill, it opens up the rest of their lives. Once they gain confidence, there's no limit to what they can do," he says. "If you can teach people to think differently, that's where the creativity comes into play.

"I hope to inspire people to do things they never thought they could do."

Besides, he adds, making food preparation more fun is only going to help people eat healthier, more varied diets.

"Since we're going to have to eat every day of our lives, we might as well enjoy it," he says. "So do it. Do what your mom told you not to do and play with your food. It works for me."

Barbara Arciero

Carving lesson

  1. A few steps turn a red bell pepper into a festive poinsettia.
  2. Use a Thai knife (or sharp paring knife) to cut the flower's shape.
  3. U-shaped carving tools or tiny melon ballers create spheres of yellow squash.
  4. Add a few pieces of squash to each poinsettia flower using toothpicks.
  5. Spread the completed flowers along a wreath of kale leaves.