COLUMBIA — Forget what your mother said — you should play with your food. At least, Chefs Ray Duey and Gui Alinat think so.
Alinat and Duey were among nearly a dozen presenters who demonstrated that food can be a canvas for creativity at "The Art of Food" on Friday at the Reynolds Alumni Center.
The culinary summit brought together chefs, food professionals, writers, photographers, magazine editors, bloggers and students for seminars on edible art, food styling and photography.
Alinat, a Tampa-based chef and food writer, specializes in food arrangements. He has mastered the skill of making food look tantalizing in the photos he uses for his blog and catering business.
“It takes two to three hours to get one photo,” he said, leaning over a red lobster he had placed on a white plate.
Picking up tweezers, he dropped sprigs of herbs on the plate and painted it with beetroot before snapping a photo.
“It is about unity,” he said, naming color, texture and composition as other components needed in pleasing food photography.
Duey uses food in a different kind of art: fruit and vegetable carving. He flew in from California to share his craft. Although food carving is a seemingly small field, Duey said there are still opportunities.
“People eat with their eyes,” he said.
Duey made jack-o'-lanterns for an episode in the first season of “American Horror Story,” has been a winner on “Food Network Challenge” and carved pumpkins for President Obama.
Duey listed his top five edible canvases as honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, beets and potatoes.
On Friday, he turned an ordinary potato into a rose, one of his signature sculptures. Timing his movements to Bette Midler's "The Rose," he executed small twists with a special carving knife for the petals.
Three minutes and 40 seconds later — exactly the length of the song— he threaded the culinary piece on a skewer and presented it to an audience member.
Those at the seminar could also attend a master class in food photography, learn the art of dining well and listen to chefs talk about their skills.
“When you’re an artist, life goes from black and white to color," Duey said. "Everything becomes so much more vibrant."