SCC Has 'Cool' Instructor
Chris Currier, associate professor and coordinator of Culinary Arts at Sandhills Community College, is so cool that he has to wear winter coats, gloves, and hats year-round to prevent frostbite.
That's because he is also a certified ice carver who works with 300-lb. blocks of ice to create ice sculptures that leave a lasting impression long after they melt.
"Just about anything can be created in ice," Currier said. "The possibilities are limitless. Designs can be elegant, dramatic, fun and functional."
Currier is a certified executive chef (CEC) by the American Culinary Federation, a certified hospitality educator (CHE) by the American Hotel and Lodging Association Federation, and a Certified ice carver (CIC) by the National Ice Carving Association.
Prior to working full time at Sandhills, he was the executive chef at Pine Needles, where Sandhills used the banquet facility for culinary classes before the college had its own space on campus. Currier's other experience includes working at Stouffers Hotel in Pennsylvania and owning his own business.
Currier's current business, CRC Iceworks, provides ice sculptures for hotels, restaurants, country clubs, caterers and many businesses throughout the Sandhills. These works of art are used at weddings, birthday celebrations, holiday events, graduations, church functions and corporate events.
Currier uses a variety of tools for his trade.
"I use electric chain saws, die grinders, angle grinders, specialty router bits, chisels, heat guns and torches," he said. "The craft also involves much patience and a passion for the art."
The time involved in his art form depends upon the design, complexity and intricacy of the sculpture.
"A flower vase, which is a relatively simple design, may take two hours for the actual sculpting," he said. "However, the time it takes to prepare the design and template, sculpt the ice, prepare the sculpture for transportation, deliver it and set it up onsite, the total time involved could be as much as six to eight hours."
More elaborate or multi-block pieces, as in a working bar totally made out of ice, can take days, he added.
Depending on the temperature and placement, finished sculptures last up to six hours indoors. For outdoor events, it all depends on the weather and where it is located.
Ice carving is so popular that it became an Olympic event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where ice carvers from around the world competed for medals.
"I was fortunate enough to take a class this summer with one of the members of the gold medal-winning team from those Olympics," Currier said. "I also did a National Ice Carving Association (NICA) apprenticeship over the summer during my sabbatical, working with and being taught by certified master ice carver Greg Butauski from Rock on Ice in Ohio.
"That experience took my ice carving and teaching skills to a whole different level. I am planning on another experience with master carver Butauski at the end of January in Michigan for a 120-plus block ice festival."
Most ice carvers have chef backgrounds. Currier teaches ice carving as part of the curriculum in garde manger class (the art of cold foods) at Sandhills Community College. This class is part of both the culinary and baking and pastry degree and certificate programs.
"We are thinking of expanding or offering more ice carving classes as part of our future plans as we continue to develop our programs," Currier said.
Sandhills' culinary arts and baking and pastry arts programs provide specific training required to prepare students to assume positions as trained culinary professionals in a variety of food service settings, including full-service restaurants, hotels, resorts, clubs, catering operations, contract food service and on cruise ships and in health care facilities.
The majority of mid to high-end restaurants in the Sandhills area employ chefs, cooks and other restaurant personnel who were trained through these programs, a news release said.
Anyone wanting more information about SCC's culinary arts program can contact Currier at (910) 695-3760 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
The spring semester begins Monday, Jan. 10. Registration for classes will be on Thursday.
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