The cold never bothered him anyways. Or rather, growing up ice fishing taught Steve Buzak the importance of dressing in layers—a necessary trick when you’re carving 15 blocks of ice in 35 hours. This January alone, the chef/carver/artist will compete internationally in Edmonton (Ice on Whyte), Lake Louise, and Harbin, China (in the largest ice and snow festival in the world). Meet Steve Buzak…
You first sculpted with ice in culinary school. How did this develop further?
When I first moved away for my job, part of the selling factor was that there was an ice carver. He was an international competitor and the banquet sous-chef, and I was first-cook. There would be an ice sculpture every week for brunch, and I would take the scraps and repurpose it. We’d do ice for the hotel and the festivals. Then before you know it, I was his partner, and the rest is history.
How do you train for competitions?
I do live demos at fundraisers and schools… And I learn from watching others and talking. When you go to these events, you talk to carvers, get to know them, and some of them will share their secrets. You’re always learning and feeding off inspiration from each other. I don’t have just one person I idolize. It’s the same thing as a chef… It’s everybody around me.
Often, you’re carving for the first time at the competition. It’s hard to get together with your partner or team for two-and-a-half days like that… and one block of ice is over $100, so imagine spending $1,500 just to practice. We’ll sketch and we’ll plan, but all the times we’ve competed, it’s been the first time we’ve done that carving.
What’s a principle you try to live by?
It’s always changing. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something… There were these carvers who were the world champions and some people said they were untouchable, but we beat them before, with determination and patience. You can do it.