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Carving a niche at Tigard Farmers Market

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Adrian Arenas holds a work of art, a watermelon he carved with his company logo. Arenas who has a booth at the Tigard Farmers Market, learned his trade at a culinary school in Morelia, Mexico. During your weekly shopping, you may notice Adrian Arenas attempting to carve out his own corner of the Tigard Farmers Market.

For the past year, the part-time sushi chef has slowly been building a small side business making clever centerpieces in the media of watermelon, papayas and cantaloupes.

He says he never carved pumpkins as a child, making him an autodidact of sorts when it comes to the centuries-old art form. His brother, Fabino, taught him the trade after taking a course in Chicago, where Fabino is attempting to re-launch his own fruit-carving business catering specifically to weddings. The Beaverton resident had long worked in the kitchens of Thai, Chinese and Japanese restaurants, and so had been exposed to sculpted fruit.

His new hobby went viral when Arenas presented one of his first creations to his wife, who posted a photo of it on Facebook. A friend not only liked the image, she sent him his first commission, for Mother’s Day.

That was more than a year ago, and Arenas’ portfolio has expanded. He has been taking orders for his carvings in earnest for the past six months. During that time, using a watermelon as a canvas, he has etched congratulatory messages to newlyweds, recent graduates, expectant mothers and birthday girls; he has advertised wineries, a cancer benefit concert, the farmers market and his own business.

So far, his hobby has only slowly grown into a potential side business. He took four orders during graduation season, and averages about three melons a week.

Between his job making sushi and nights spent stocking merchandise at Target, he works about four days a week, and is sometimes out of the house 18 hours a day.

“That’s enough to pay my rent,” he says.

Carving a watermelon generally takes more than two hours, and the product is fully edible. Aside from his set of 98 carving tools — “Honestly, I don’t know how to use them all,” he admits — Arenas wears gloves and uses only water as he goes to keep the melon fresh.

“This is new to me,” he adds, delighted that fruit carving also seems new to most of his customers, who all seem to put their own creative spin on the idea.

“Sometimes they want a bucket with fruit inside, or a specific design within the basket. They can eat all the flowers, everything,” Arenas says of his carvings.

As he fills orders and customizes designs, other shapes have emerged: a swan emerging from the rind, lattice work, foliage, human silhouettes, loaves of bread, beloved cartoon characters. Arenas has the uncanny ability to switch between a variety of fonts and styles, sometimes using the green of the melon rind, sometimes abandoning it completely to work only with the fruit itself.

It is not a simple trade.

“I like to do this, but I think (the business) needs more people, more than me” to grow, he says. “It takes two hours (to carve) a watermelon. I can’t cater a big order for weddings.”

Still, he hopes to expand his business, order by order.

It is not a process you’re likely to see if you stop by his booth at the farmers market. Arenas prefers to create his weekend displays early in the morning, one each in watermelon, papaya and cantaloupe. But he’s on hand every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., happy to talk about his newfound skills, and always ready with a jaw-dropping portfolio.

For more information about The Magic Touch Fruit Carving, visit greattastesushi.com, or visit him at the Tigard Farmers Market every Sunday through Oct. 27, at 8777 S.W. Burnham St.



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  • 2 Oct 2014

    Mostly Sunny 72°F 49°F

  • 3 Oct 2014

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