He uses mouth to churn out art work

Chezhian made Eiffel Tower with sugar cane

Artists generally have a deft pair of hands and produce masterpieces using them. But, here is a 27-year-old man, who effect­ively uses his mouth to win appl­ause.

Vegetable art is generally done  using hands. However, Elan Chezhian holds a knife in his mouth and carves vegetable into beautiful flowers, amazing birds and prominent personalities. He has made faces of great poet Subramaniya Bharathi, DMK president M Karunanidhi, Nobel laureate Mother Teresa and even India-born American astronaut Kalpana Chawla with different vegetables and fruits.

His passion for food led him to perfect the ancient art of fruit and vegetable carving, which originated in Thailand and China several decades ago. “Decorating fresh, well-formed and colourful fruits and vegetables through artistic carving is not difficult. All it needs is concentration. There is no need for special carving knives. One sharp-pointed knife is enough to carve fruits and vegetables beautifully. The knife, however, must be sharp at all times, and you should always have a small whetstone nearby,” he says.

Familiar root crops like carrot and radish along with other vegetables like tomato take centre stage as they are magically transformed into birds like parrots or peacocks, or delicately carved into roses, daisies and other flowers.

Now, vegetable carving along with decorative fruit carving have become part of parties and weddings. 

Once Chezhian amazed everyone by making an Eiffel Tower with one tonne of fresh drumsticks alone with the help of a local sponsor. “I also made another such tower with one tonne of sugar cane. In addition, a dove with two tonnes of radish was also made,” he said.

A world record holder for the fastest carving through mouth, produces limitless range of designs in every available fruit and vege­table, often based on the ideas and identities of speci­fic requirements.

Born in Theni district, Chehzian sculpts particularly with vegetables and aspires to perfect his designs with smaller fruits to create an animated series of fruit sculptured characters to entertain children and raise awareness on the value of fruits in nutrition, especially in villages.

“I began carving at the age of 17. No one taught me this technique. I learnt the art myself after seeing it in some magazines,” the artist said.

Initially, Chezhian carved vegetables by his hands. “As I wanted to do something different from others, I tried to do it by mouth and succeeded,” he added. However, he does not teach his “risky” technique to others, especially children. Chehzian, a cricket lover, used to avoid playing his passionate game with friends due to his addiction to the art.

He visits villages in the state, teaches the culinary art of fruit and vegetable carving.
His art leaves spectators and culinary professionals alike spellbound. “Till now, carving is confined only to cities and star hotels. I want to spread the art in as many as villages as possible,” Chezhian said.

He says fruit and vegetable carving, an art that requires cutting precision and creativity, is attracting more admirers in villages too. Scooping out a tiny part of the bitter guard and grating its end can result in an art work. Now, even homemakers and children are taking interest in learning the art.

“Vegetable carving could help many housewives, especially in villages, earn up to Rs 300 per day as there is demand even in village functions,” he claimed. He also teaches butter and ice carving, which have now found their way into many wedding parties. “The best part of the carving is that any seasonal vegetable can be used and customised to our creativity,” he adds.

K Banumathy, a homemaker, has made vegetable and fruit carvings her profession. “One can earn anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 depending on the display. The work is highly addictive for an art lover like me,” she adds.

Another interesting aspect of Chezhian is that he surprises visiting VIPs by carving their face in a water melon. “I give it to them at the end of the function,” Chehzian, who once presented the portrait of MMDK chief Vaiko to the latter himself, said.
He runs a small school and teaches young and poor children. “After all, it is most satisfying to pursue your passion and make a living on what you love
doing,” he said.

Viswanathan, a chef from a leading star hotel in the city, said that the purpose of fruit and vegetable carving is to make food more attractive, more appetizing, and also easier to eat.

An accomplished homemaker can make her guests happy  with fruit carefully pared, seeded and, perhaps, cut into bite-size slices depending on the type. Vegetables should be first delicately carved and arranged attractively in the plate to impress the visitor.


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