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Creative carving: Chef makes art out of fruits, vegetables

:Believe it or not, this is a sweet potato. Chef Tek's pieces can last anywhere from 10 days to one month, if stored properly.

:Believe it or not, this is a sweet potato. Chef Tek's pieces can last anywhere from 10 days to one month, if stored properly.

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:Chef Tek of Thai Palace in Conyers displays an arrangement he made for a recent wedding. - Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

CONYERS -- Withit Wansutthi can take your average rutabaga and turn it into a work of art.

Also known as Chef Tek, Wansutthi is the sushi chef at Thai Palace in Olde Town Conyers, but he does much more than chop fish. Chef Tek practices the Thai art of vegetable and fruit carving. He can create the most intricate of designs on sweet potatoes, pumpkins and watermelons. He usually sticks to floral designs, but can also carve birds and butterflies.

Chef Tek was born in Thailand and came to America in 2000. Speaking through an interpreter, his wife Chanh Phosai, he said he is self-taught, learning his craft from books and videos.

As a chef he wanted to spruce up his dishes with some decoration, but he was also motivated by a desire to preserve an ancient tradition from his homeland, where the ornate carvings were typically used in food presentations to the royal court. Today, food carving is not practiced much in Thailand because it is so difficult to do, according to Chef Tek, who learned the skill in about six months.

He started by carving roses out of carrots, which now takes him about three to five minutes. A large watermelon can take up to three hours, and smaller fruit, like cantaloupes, can take one and a half to two hours. Vegetables and fruits have to be nice and firm for carving, he said.

Chef Tek uses a knife he hand-crafted himself. He said he has to make his own tools because there are none to buy that are sharp enough.

He does his work for the restaurant, and for private events such as weddings, as well as cultural events such as the Asian Cultural Experience in Gwinnett.

He only accepts orders of $500 or more and they must be made at least a week in advance of the event. Chef Tek is interested in tutoring anyone who would like to learn the art of food carving.

To place an order or inquire about tutoring, contact Chef Tek at 770-785-7778.