Tuesday, December 25, 2007
One of the great things about this business is that fruit and vegetable carving has so many applications, in so many different kinds of events and functions. Recently we had the opportunity to work with UCB Pharmaceuticals of Belgium. It was for the World Allergy Conference, held here in Bangkok from Dec 3-5. What does fruit and vegetable carving have to do with allergy drugs? Well, nothing. We had been contacted by a woman in the marketing department who saw our displays. A light bulb immediately went off in her head, as she figured it would be a great way to attract visitors to their booth, and make her company’s exhibit the center of attention in the exhibition hall. And what a brilliant idea it was! I could not believe how many people were flocking to their booth just to look at the carving display. Doctors from all over the world complimented me personally on the work my carvers were doing. I wonder sometimes if my carvers should have become surgeons instead?
Furthermore, our carved soaps were used as giveaways to attendees who gave the correct answer in a trivia game they were holding. Everybody that saw the display and the soaps loved them. They marveled at the intricacy of the work, as they had never seen such an art before. Needless to say, the event was a huge success, and I was grateful for the opportunity that UCB Pharmaceuticals gave us. I could not have been more proud!
They put us in contact with a very large exhibition organizer here, and we hope to do many more events right here in Bangkok, as well as all over the world. They were so gracious and helpful, and I could not have picked a better company to work with!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Waking up early on a Sunday morning. Definitely not something I normally do. However, today was slightly different than other Sundays. Today, we began filming segments for our online training course. A whole day of shooting, preparing displays, and other ancillary aspects of filming. Our videographer showed up at about 9:00 am with her crew, equipment in hand, ready to film. I arrived perhaps ten minutes earlier. Upon arriving, I immediately found my carvers hard at work, preparing pieces for the camera. I relaxed into my favorite chair, and observed the carvers at work. I have been in this business a while, and I have seen some amazing masterpieces, but I still drop my jaw in awe every time they create these breathtaking edible arrangements. The intricacy of the designs makes me wonder how anyone can have enough patience to create some of the pieces they do. Personally, the cat carved from from taro was my personal favorite! Shortly after arriving, the film crew arrived, equipment in tow, ready for a day's filming! Not to bore you with the minute details of the filming, but it went on all day. Unfortunately, we were not able to finish on Sunday, so the crew had to come back the following day to finish the shooting. We're presently working on the editing, script, and voice over. Hopefully, we should have the training videos up on the site within about about ten days, so stay tuned!!! www.carvinginstitute.com
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I was speaking to an old aquaitance from my high school days recently. He is a now a respected author and consultant in the area of networking. Upon seeing my site, he bombarded me with different ideas of how to network and promote the Carving Institute. Every chef, food & beverage director, hotel manager and other professional that I talked to loved the concept of what I was doing. In fact, I had an opportunity to speak to the publisher of a food & beverage magazine in Las Vegas, who told me that every hotel would take this. However, one vexing problem remained: They are there, and I am here! How do I bring this art to the world without having to deal with plane tickets, hotel rooms, visas, contracts, etc...? He had shown the site to a colleague of his by the name of Lynda. As it happens, Lynda is a respected and successful publicist. One of the first things that Lynda said to me on the phone was that I should start offering courses online.
A light bulb instantly went off in my head! We do a good business here at the school in Bangkok. However, most people do not have the time or money to pack their bags on a whim and come to Thailand. Instead of simply bringing students to the Carving Institute, we are going to bring the Carving Institute to the students, wherever they may be! Any student can learn at their own pace, according to their own schedule, in the privacy of their own home. No flight tickets, no taxis, no hotels! We should have the videos up and running on the site within two weeks, so stay tuned! www.carvinginstitute.com
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
As we near ever closer to going back to India, it's hard for me to contain my excitement. Some people might consider me crazy. Maybe they are right? Maybe they just don't appreciate the beauty of India? Of course, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Some people look exclusively for luxury, and to be pampered, but that's just not my style. Being from Brooklyn, I always appreciated people and places that were real and unsanitized for mass consumption (India certainly qualifies under that requirement!). India is a truly a land of extremes. It's like you took everyone and everything and threw it into a blender, and out came India!
People have a perception of India that is not entirely accurate. When people think of India, the first things that generally come to mind are Mother Theresa, cows, poverty, snake charmers and the like. That's not to say that these assumptions are totally inaccurate, but they are from the entire picture. For starters, the Indian economy is growing by nearly 10% a year. There are approximately 300 million middle class in India (not all are middle class by western standards, of course). A whole new generation of Indians have money and are not shy about spending it. No place is that more apparent than at Indian Weddings.
One must understand that the wedding is not simply for the bride and groom. Nor is it simply for the enjoyment of the family. It is a statement about social class, and where you stand in Indian society. No event in a person's lifetime is more important and no expense is spared. Had you told me several years ago that I would be working preparing displays for Indian weddings, I would have thought you were absolutely crazy!
As it happens, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of fruit and vegetable consumption in the world. This is primarily because the infrastrucutre is very poor, and approximately 40% of all produce goes bad before it reaches the marketplace. However, with India's economic boom, that is rapidly changing. I am so excited to be able to partake in something so grand. The reception we received at the two weddings we did last December was very positive. Indians want the best for their weddings, and often time no expense is spared! Given that there are over a billion people, there will never be a shortage of people getting married, and given the economic growth, there will be no shortage of people demanding nothing less than the best for their children's weddings. And for all those who demand creativity and beauty, the Carving Institute will provide nothing less than the best for our customers! www.carvinginstitute.com
Friday, October 5, 2007
Part of why I enjoy having this school is that I get to meet people from all over the world. Case in point is Bruno. With his near constant smile, he tells me about himself and how he came to taking our course in Thailand. "I was actually in the States for over a year. I was working in Kansas City, Missouri. It was ok, but it certainly was nothing like the town where I come from in Italy. It wasn't where I planned on going, but it was an experience. I am only 22, so I want to travel a bit, and maybe even learn something!".
I was actually able to get him an apartment for the month in a building right down the street from us for a very reasonable price. It was great because he could literally roll out of bed and walk down the street to us. No taxis, no motorbikes, no skytrain, no subway, no problem! I did everything I could to make his experience enjoyable, as I do with all my students. I had an opportunity to take him out and show him Bangkok. He was amazed at not just the number of food sellers in the street, but the actual quality of the food they served. "This is really good, and I can not believe how cheap it is! I could stay here for a while on what make near Bologna" he says, flashing a wide smile. This is nothing I have not heard before. In fact, this is nothing I have not stopped saying to myself nearly every day! www.carvinginstitute.com
Monday, October 1, 2007
My First Indian Wedding
I was reading National Geographic recently when I noticed the headline "My Big Fat Indian Wedding". I immediately took notice and began to read the article, as it pertains to my business.
I first became interested in the Indian wedding market while doing the International Food & Hospitality Show last year here in Bangkok. I was approached by several Indian attendees who suggested that this would be great for the Indian families looking for something unique and special for their children's wedding. Up to that point in time, I knew very little about Indian weddings other than what I had seen in Bollywood movies. I had an opportunity to go to India for the first time last December, and I have to tell you, it was amazing! Beyond the culture shock of people driving the wrong way down the street, the abundance of cows EVERYWHERE, and the sheer chaos, I absolutely loved it! We had a local wedding planner in Delhi who was able to get us into two weddings.
Instead of telling you about the displays we did and how the guests reacted (very positively!), I have to tell you a little about the wedding ceremony itself. I remember seeing a man entering the premises on a white horse (whom I quickly realized was the groom) wearing a turban and perhaps one hundred ten rupee notes clipped to his shiny outfit. He was accompanied by an enormous band not unlike one you might see at a gigantic parade. People were jumping up and down, singing and clapping like it was the greatest day of their lives. I've been to weddings before, and they were normally subdued. This was like nothing I had ever seen in my life! Unfortunately, at that point I had to return to my carvers and make some last minute changes to the display. When I got back to the ceremony, I noticed the bride, covered in more jewelery than I thought was humanly possible, exchanging garlands with the groom. There was something about that that just made me so fascinated. After exchanging garlands, there was a line that must have been a mile long of guests giving their best wishes to the new husband and wife, accompanied with their pictures being taken with the new couple on a gigantic couch placed on a stage surrounded by a display that would not have been out of place at the Oscars. It was a stunning mixture of wealth, culture, humility, love for family, and just plain over-the-top bravado. This was not the India I envisioned while growing up in Brooklyn!
We currently have a contract pending with one of the biggest fruit companies in the world (whom I cannot name just yet) to provide our services to the Indian wedding market. I am so excited not only about the opportunities for us, but for the opportunity for me to spend more time in India! www.carvinginstitute.com
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Above is a section of a display done on May 12, 2007, at the Amari Atrium Hotel in Bangkok. The executive chef of the Amari Atrium, H.P. Aschwanden, was immediately won over by the beauty and intricacy of the display. “This is absolutely beautiful. I really think you have something special and it has so many applications in the culinary field.” Strategically placed at the entrance to the buffet and two other locations visible to all diners, there was no shortage of guests who could not believe that these were in fact carvings of fruits and vegetables!
Included in the display were dragons and sunflowers carved from pumpkins, lotuses carved from cantaloupes, birds and other assorted flowers carved from carrots, among other things. Our crew of carvers spent the entire day carving and preparing the arrangement, and upon completing their work, chef Aschwanden was nice enough to treat the staff of the Carving Institute to a complimentary buffet meal. I must say, as a lover of great food, I certainly was not disappointed! www.carvinginstitute.com