CREATION - Pictured here is a bouquet created by Lyn Attanayake. All of the hand-crafted flowers are made out of vegetables.

Creating flowers out of vegetables

City man specializes in unusual artistry

  • Oct. 24, 2012 3:09 p.m.

While it’s not that common in Canada, carving flowers and creating displays and centrepieces from vegetables is a popular as well as beautiful art form in many Asian countries.

Lyn Attanayake, 39, who is originally from Columbo, the capital of Sri Lanka, who now calls Red Deer home, does vegetable carvings as a hobby and business on the side.

Now a kitchen manager at Denny’s, Attanayake was trained in the hospitality industry and as a chef in his native country where he worked in the kitchens of five-star hotels before immigrating to Canada five and a half years ago. Four years later his wife and two young sons joined him in Red Deer. He did no formal training in the art of vegetable carving, but learned from a colleague who mentored him. In Sri Lankan upscale hotels, vegetable carving is a specialist’s job.

“I just started by watching and then doing it myself and some of it wasn’t very pretty at first,” said Attanayake.

But his colleague showed him how to do the little things that can make a difference, “And I just kept trying and trying to get better, one by one. Sometimes I’d just take some vegetables and try to do different things with them.”

The practice and experimentation paid off and now he can carve whole watermelons into decorative, elaborate patterns, and he uses carrots, beets, radishes, leeks, turnips or almost any vegetable to carve realistic flowers and plants for dazzling displays of colour.

He’s also done some pumpkin carving too, but says he doesn’t have the right tools for pumpkins. He’s also tried carving butter, but modestly says that’s not where his talents reside.

Mostly he does centrepieces or displays to order, and for practice supplies them for special occasions like local birthdays and weddings to friends and fellow co-workers. The average display takes him two and a half to three hours to complete and he charges by the time, size and cost of the ingredients.

While he enjoys the carving, he sees it as a sideline to his first career as a chef. When it comes to cooking, Attanayake said, “I can cook everything; Arabic, Chinese, international, whatever, because (in the hotel industry) you’re feeding people from all over the world.” But he can carve flowers from all over the world too.

Some sources said vegetable carving originated in Thailand about 700 years ago. One Thai emperor even wrote poems about it and it is often taught in primary school there, as well as at university. Other food historians say it dates back to the Tang Dynasty, about 600 A.D., in China. It’s especially popular in Japan, where vegetable carving is basic to every chef’s training. It’s an art form that is only limited by the skills and imagination of the carver.

acryderman@reddeerexpress.com

Just Posted

Red Deer River Naturalists host guest speaker

Bradley Peter will talk about new methods of lake monitoring

Superintendent Ken Foster sees progress in city policing

Red Deer RCMP Superintendent has been on the job for a year and has seen success

Accused Jason Klaus testifies in triple-homicide trial in Red Deer

Klaus charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of arson

Red Deer County team honoured for aid in Waterton Fires

Red Deer County Protective Services a huge help to RCMP

WATCH: Red Deerians come together to ‘light the night’

Traditional Red Deer Lights the Night sees thousands

Canadian screen stars want ‘action’ from industry meeting on sexual misconduct

‘Of course there’s been sexual harassment here. Absolutely. No question.’

Opioid prescriptions up across Canada: report

The report shows the number of opioid prescriptions rose by almost seven per cent, while daily doses on average dropped

Russian meddling has implications for Canada

Kosovo president Hashim Thaci warns that Russian meddling has implications for Canada

Health Canada hints at government’s plans for legal pot

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regulations

Washington governor tells BC don’t be ‘daunted’ by Trump

“I want to assure this assembly that no matter who is in the White House, it won’t affect Washington state’s relationship with Canada or British Columbia.”

Feds plan to spend billions on housing strategy

However much of the $15.9 billion will not be spent until after the next election in 2019

David Cassidy, teen idol and ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

Cassidy announced earlier this year he had been diagnosed with dementia

Cost to fix Phoenix pay system to surpass $540 million: auditor general

Michael Ferguson’s review hints the entire system should be scrapped

Most Read