x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The art that is good enough to eat

A Filipino man is making a name for himself with his chocolate carvings.

Mr Baisas started carving and coating the figure on May 23, spending about 200 hours on it before the June 19 deadline.
Mr Baisas started carving and coating the figure on May 23, spending about 200 hours on it before the June 19 deadline.

DUBAI // The life-size sculpture of a father with his two children proved tempting for those passing by in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai.

The sculpture, which was carved to mark Father's Day and was recently moved up to the ninth floor, measures 120cm by 105cm and is constructed from 300kg of dark and white chocolate.

"Many guests have been asking me if it could be eaten," said Feliciano Baisas, the hotel's "kitchen artist" behind the delectable work. "It's edible but unfortunately, they can't have a piece."

Curious onlookers have also wondered if the structure could withstand the Dubai heat, he said.

The answer is no - the chocolate needs to be kept at temperatures between 20°C and 24°C. "It's solid but we can't take it outdoors."

The 46-year-old Filipino father-of-three said people of many different nationalities - including Indians, Britons and Africans - stopped to compliment him while it was taking shape.

"They were generous with praise," he said. "One guest who checked out before Father's Day told me he was sad that he wouldn't be in the hotel to see the finished product."

Mr Baisas started carving and coating the figure on May 23, spending about 200 hours on it before the June 19 deadline.

"Occasionally, I've also been tempted to eat some chocolate," he said. "But I've grown used to it after carving many different chocolate structures while working in seven five-star hotels in Manila, the US, Egypt and the UAE."

The main industry of his hometown, Paete, Laguna, about 60km south of Manila, is wood carving. At the age of 12, Mr Baisas taught himself how to carve wood before moving on to more edible materials. "I guess I just had artistic talent," he said.

In previous work for the hotel, Mr Baisas created a mother and son sculpture for Mother's Day and an enormous display for Easter.

"Feliciano's sculptures are not only tributes to the people in our lives but are also engaging and a wonderful talking point in our lobby," said Natalie Glorney, Shangri-La Hotel Dubai's director of communications.

Last April, Mr Baisas travelled to Singapore for the hotel chain's 40th anniversary celebrations. For 21 days, he worked on 11 camel chocolate sculptures of various sizes to create a single piece measuring one by two metres.

"An artist should have both passion and patience to create a masterpiece," Mr Baisas. "You obviously can't be in a rush to have it done."

He carves fruit, vegetables and ice. Last year, he won a silver medal for a fruit and vegetable showcase in the capital and a gold medal in an ice carving competition.

Mr Baisas is now preparing a chocolate sculpture of an Arabic coffeepot that will be displayed in the hotel lobby in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which is forecast to begin on August 1.

rruiz@thenational.ae