By Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, ACE, HGT, AAC
Hard to believe, this is our 23rd year for Snowfest! Throughout that time span it has been my responsibility and pleasure to organize and coordinate the ice carving competitions. I say pleasure because, as a chef, I have had a lifelong fascination with the art of ice carving.
One of my “bucket list” fantasies came true a few years back when I was chosen to be a judge for the U.S. National Ice Carving Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Outside all day and well into the night for eight days in finger and toe numbing sub-zero weather surrounded by the world’s best ice carvers – not everyone’s idea of fun; but I had a great time and would gladly do it again. Back when we first organized Snowfest, we decided that we didn’t necessarily want to be the biggest winter event. Instead, we wanted to be the best by attracting the top ice and snow carvers from across the U.S. and around the world. For example, the current U.S. National Champion ice carver Aaron Costic is one of our regulars. Aaron, along with Ben Rand who won the U.S. National Collegiate Championships twice here in Frankenmuth, will represent the United States at the Russian Winter Olympics this winter. Ice carving is one of the artistic & cultural events where medals are awarded the same as in sporting events. Past World Champion legends Ted Wakar and Jim Bur have also been longtime participants at Snowfest. If you’re a regular Snowfest attendee, the Wakar/Bur team’s most remembered piece was the 12 foot tall praying mantis. A local college biology professor told me it was not only a magnificent carving, but also was anatomically correct. Greg Butauski, another National and World Champion, does our multi-block carving each year. If you see ice carvings on TV or in movies, there’s a 90% chance that the carvers of those pieces have participated at Zehnder’s Snowfest. For 2014, we’ll play host once again to the U.S. National Collegiate Ice Carving Championships. Zehnder’s Snowfest has proudly hosted the collegiate championships for fourteen years. Ice carving is an art form taught almost exclusively in college level culinary schools so it’s only natural to spotlight these talented young “soon to be” chefs.