VIU Baking Grad Has A Passion For Sculpting

Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island logo and bread

Vancouver Island University third-year baking apprentice Stephanie Graziani entered her magnificent chocolate and sugar sculpture at the Salon du Chocolat competition in Vancouver last month.

While some artists sculpt in marble, wood, stone or cement, Stephanie Graziani prefers something a bit softer and more edible.

The 21-year-old Vancouver Island University third-year baking apprentice makes magnificent chocolate and sugar sculptures, which she enters in every competition she can. She often competes against some of Canada’s top pastry chefs, which may be daunting to some, but not to Graziani. For her it’s not so much about winning but about gaining invaluable experience and exposure.

“I like the challenge of a competition and I try to enter every one I can,” said Graziani, who lives in Victoria but was originally from Kitimat, BC.

For this year’s competitions, Graziani created a towering display of white and brown chocolate piano keys spiraling around glass-like sugar music notes, ribbons and pillars. The creation was influenced by Graziani’s love for playing the piano. Fittingly titled “Symphony #21”, her masterpiece is also hand-painted with special chocolate paints making for a very colourful display.

Besides the challenge of spending days creating such a sculpture, Graziani also had a few hair-raising moments while transporting it to the Salon du Chocolat competition at The Art Institute of Vancouver earlier this month.

While going over the Lions Gate Bridge, Graziani held her breath over every bump hoping nothing would break off. In the end it wasn’t the transportation that got to it but the warm sun, making for a few last minute repairs before the judging.

She said the challenge of keeping such a delicate sculpture in one piece is worth the aggravation because her ultimate goal is to be a member of the Canadian National Pastry Team.

“Each competition and each showpiece I enter brings me closer to my goal,” said Graziani, who has worked in Banff and at the Empress Hotel in Victoria.

Right now she works for the Marina Restaurant in Victoria alongside award-winning pastry chef, Brian Bradley, winner of the 2005 Grand Marnier Dessert Challenge.

She also continues to get inspiration and assistance from the chefs at VIU, including Chef Bill Clay, who coached her on the building of her show piece.

“[VIU] has great chefs who have been a great help to me,” she said.

Graziani has two more competitions to enter before this year is up, including the 2006 Grand Marnier Dessert Challenge at the Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria and the Canadian Culinary Federation’s Vancouver Island Chef of the Year competition with Executive Chef Jeff Keenliside, who is also last year’s winner.

NB - April 2008 - Stephanie now works in Vancouver at and with Thomas Haas

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