Greenbrae Retirement Community employee revels in his whimsical edible art

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  • Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    Anthony Soriano shows off his carving skills during a demonstration at the Tamalpais Marin in Greenbrae.

  • One of Anthony Soriano's creations.

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    One of Anthony Soriano’s creations.

  • One of Anthony Soriano's creations.

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    One of Anthony Soriano’s creations.

  • Anthony Soriano with some of his creations.

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    Anthony Soriano with some of his creations.

  • One of Anthony Soriano's creations.

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    One of Anthony Soriano’s creations.

  • Anthony Soriano is passionate about carving fruit, vegetables and...

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    Anthony Soriano has a passion for sculpting fruit, vegetables and ice cream.

  • Anthony Soriano demonstrates his sculpting skills during a demonstration at...

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    Anthony Soriano demonstrates his carving skills during a demonstration at the Tamalpais Marin in Greenbrae.

  • One of Anthony Soriano's edible creations.

    Photo by Jim Mollenauer

    One of Anthony Soriano’s edible creations.

They say don’t play with your food. But, for Anthony Soriano, this is where the magic happens.

The longtime sculptor turns the ordinary into extraordinary creations, turning watermelons into flowers, a pineapple into a palm tree with hanging grapefruit monkeys, and ice into swans and intricate martini glasses.

It’s a skill Soriano has taken with him to his jobs in the food industry, including now as Director of Food Services for the Tamalpais Marin, a continuing care retirement community in Greenbrae. Over the past few months, he’s given a fruit and vegetable carving demonstration to residents, displayed his creations, and plans to make an upcoming ice sculpture.

Q What inspired your pivot to this side of the food industry?

A I was born to serve residents. I love showing off my skills and carvings, and I see residents enjoying what I can do with ice cream and fruits and vegetables. It makes me happy to see them having fun with what I do. At one of the seniors’ residences where I worked in Oakland, one of the residents came up to me and said, “I’m 90 and this is the first time I’ve seen a sculpture ice cream made in front of me”, and they were in tears. And since then, I start doing demonstrations for the inhabitants as soon as I have the time.

Q Where do you find inspiration?

A I’m from the Philippines and the only way for me to make money was woodcarving. Our city, Paete, is the carving capital of the Philippines, so I grew up carving. At first I just wanted to learn and do it just because I wanted to support my studies. Ice sculptures have become in great demand overseas and I went to a hotel in Manila and said, “I have to try making ice sculptures. I just want to learn. It was like on-the-job training. I applied as a cooking artist, they hired me, and then I got involved in the kitchen and I saw all the fruits and I thought, if I can carve wood and ice, I can carve watermelon or squash and that’s how it also started.

Q What do you like in the sculpture?

A It gives me joy. As all artists say, it’s relieving your stress, relaxing and then the excitement to show it to others.

Q How does it feel to know that your art has a lifespan?

A It’s planned. It’s knowing that my carved pumpkin display that I’m going to do for the Tamalpais will last a few days. I know an ice sculpture will only last a few hours at best. But the beauty of an ice sculpture is that each time it begins to melt, it becomes more delicate. It becomes a different structure of art and it’s fun, getting smaller and smaller until it breaks.

Q You usually see work similar to yours at weddings or banquets, not in retirement communities.

A It’s true. I stayed in Vegas at the Flamingo for five years, but chose to be in a seniors’ residence. I want them to have fun. I worked at the SF Ice Co. for about a decade as one of their sculptors. Every weekend they would call me and tell me what to do. I’ve done all kinds of logos in the Bay Area, all the big ones.

Q What fruits and vegetables are good for sculpting?

A Pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, red beets, more starchy vegetables and daikon radish. This is what I use for birds.

Q You competed in sculpture. What stands out?

A I love making ice dragons. It is very delicate but there is also a lot of detail. I like the grace of the dragon. In ice carving, you have to have a lot of detail. It’s not as fun without it. The beauty of ice carving is in the details. I’ve competed in Vegas, and when it comes to fruit and vegetable carving, I’ve competed everywhere, like at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Carving Contest a while ago. I have done them all. When I was in Vegas, the ice dragon stood out. It was 10 feet tall, things were made separately, and had to be attached to the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was one of the hardest ice carvings I have ever done. It was fun, but very stressful.

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