With Jimmy Chiappa of Jimmy’s Artistic Creations
There is a magical place in East Rutherford where ice is transformed into sensational works of art. It is a place called Jimmy’s Artistic Creations, (51 Clinton Place, East Rutherford, NJ; 201.460.1919, www.jimmysartisticcreations.com) where owner, chef and artist, Jimmy Chiappa joyfully carves sculptures from blocks of ice. He supplies these artful creations for hundreds of exciting events each year, celebrating birthdays, weddings and football games.
He wasn’t always working with ice. In eighth grade he began his successful career in the food industry. By the time he was 23 years old he was a chef helping to run the kitchen at The Four Seasons with the head chef, three nights a week and running his own station with 7 to 8 employees under him. He remembers it as an amazing time in his life. But after 10 years of rewarding hard work, he felt he needed a change. He wanted more than just working in a kitchen.
What makes a chef decide to trade sautéing for sculpting? Jimmy remembers being in high school and enjoying his wood shop class. He took it for all four years with a great teacher, and there he learned to use certain designing tools like chisels and lathes. So, when he spotted his first ice sculpture at a fancy brunch with his girlfriend, he became intrigued.
At that time, he was still working tirelessly at the Four Seasons, when he decided to put the word out that he wanted to carve ice. From there he began taking ice sculpting classes on weekends. He found a prestigious teacher and trained for twelve Sundays in a row for 12-14 hours at a time. His teacher was from Thailand, and because of these lessons, Jimmy learned the art of sculpting with focus and discipline. The fish butcher at the Four Seasons was his close friend and he traveled with him to Japan where he became more invested in the disciplines of the Asian culture. He applied this to his technique. He is now one of the most talented and well-known ice sculpture specialists on the East Coast.
The shop in East Rutherford houses ice block making machines where Jimmy can have up to 120 blocks ready for sculpting for the day. The machines freeze the water slowly preventing oxygen from making the ice cloudy. Most of his projects are single blocks of ice that weigh between 200-300 lbs. But he confesses that he uses up to 3500 lbs. of ice for the Jet Game sculptures. One of his more elaborate works was for a hospital party, which used 6 blocks of ice to sculpt two large dragons. He ran a hose through the center of the dragon, and when his client pushed a button on a remote control in his pocket, smoke would pour out of the dragon’s mouth. Retail prices for Jimmy’s artwork start at $400 and can cost up to $10,000 depending on his time and the amount of ice. There is much thought and detail put into the design of each project. “I have to make sure it works out on paper first before I can start carving,” explains Jimmy. All his sculptures are designed using the factors of weight and balance. Jimmy even considers the way it melts so when the piece is taken off the table there won’t be any difficulties.
Once the drawings are made, he stands before the block of ice. Waiting just enough time so that the ice is slightly soft. Laid out before him on a table is a row of preset power tools and chain saws. Like a surgeon preparing for surgery, Jimmy is fully equipped, trained, and focused. When he first started sculpting, one piece might have taken him hours to do, now he can sculpt a masterpiece in minutes.
His team will work with each client to help decide the best creation for their event. He has over 3000 drawings of ice sculpture designs to choose from. Visiting his website at www.jimmysartisticcreations.com will offer photos of his previous works of art, but when working with Jimmy he makes every creation unique and personal to each of his clients. His sculptures don’t last forever so many of his clients return every year for another opportunity to work with him on a new design. He has produced ice sculptures for many celebrities like Aaron Judge of the NY Yankees, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Bon Jovi. He also provided artistic creations for parties on television sets such as The Sopranos, Sex in the City and Law and Order.
Jimmy is also a philanthropist. Tragedy in his life at an early age changed the way he looked at the world. Giving back is important to him, so he started a non-for-profit organization called Jimmy’s Ice Mice Team. He has a warm place in his heart for children who struggle with disease or handicaps. Jimmy simply wants to bring happiness to a child who is unfairly suffering. For more information you can visit the website at www.jimmysicemiceteam.org.
Jimmy Chiappa will be doing a live demonstration at the next Dining Out Foodie Expo scheduled for July 10, 2023. For more information you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tara Jean McDonald