Top 5 Fine Food Arts

Art created from food has a uniquely universal appeal and a certain whimsy that you don't always find with other media. But food artists are often dismissed as "novelty," despite the powerful reach of their work and the fact that it's often crafted out of some of the most finicky materials on earth. Anyone who has ever made pizza dough from scratch can tell you it is not ideal for sculpting. Below are five examples of fine food art and (a few) of the artists creating it today.

5. Prudence Emma Staite, Food Sculptor (United Kingdom) The Gloucestershire sculptor is probably the most recognized artist in her field (it's admittedly a niche group). It seems there is no medium she cannot tackle, having made masterpieces with chocolate, sugar, butter, cheese, fruits and vegetables, meat, sweets, Christmas puddings, bread, pastry, pizza -- even gravy. She will occasionally incorporate non-edible articles such as beads, baubles, photos and bows as well. The 30-year-old artist's work is recognized the world over and includes Warhols recreated from chocolate Smarties, busts of Winston Churchill and the Pope rendered from bread, homages to celebrities on pizzas, even life-size rooms crafted meticulously and entirely of chocolate. Her services and other items are available for purchase through her website .

4. Bento Boxes (Japan) Bento is a takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento box consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more tsukemono (pickled vegetables) or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container (bento box). Containers range from disposable to ornate handcrafted lacquerware. Although bento meals are readily available commercially throughout Japan, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend a great deal of time and energy for their spouse, child, or themselves, producing a carefully and artfully prepared lunch bento, a practice known as kyara-ben. So the next time you're about to bitch about making the kids' lunches, just be grateful that you don't have to recreate the Mona Lisa in their lunchbox.

3. Filippo Ioco, Body Art/Photography (United States) I'll admit it. I've looked at a burger with lust in my heart. Renowned body painter Filippo Ioco's "Fun Foods" exhibit at the World Erotic Art Museum in Miami features photos of nude models camouflaged in a variety of deliciousness ranging from a butter-soaked stack of pancakes to a neon blue martini. The question: Is the focus of the exhibit the human body as a delicacy or the sensual, siren-like allure that food has over us? I suggest focusing on "Bomb Pop" while you decide.

2. Rachel Mount, Cake Artist (United Kingdom) Mount began cake decorating in 1985 with no formal training in art or cookery. She opened her business in 1992. However, it wasn't until recently that Rachel's cake creations have been embraced by the London art world. In July 2006 she was invited to show her first exhibition at Sotheby's London, and in 2007 the Royal Academy of the Arts nominated her for the "Best Newcomer Artist Award." Today her client list includes London's top designers, royalty, Hollywood celebrities, rock stars, sports legends, art galleries and everyone else with more money than you.

1. Takashi Itoh, Watermelon Carving (Thailand) According to Itoh, fruit carving is a Thai tradition that dates back more than 700 years to the Sukhothai Dynasty and the "Floating Lantern Festival" (Loi Krathong Festival, a celebration where lanterns are floated on the river to thank the soul of the water. It is said that Lady Nopphamat carved flowers, birds, swans, rabbits and other animals on the fruits and vegetables, and the trend spread throughout the land. Today, The Floating Lantern Festival is still celebrated at the full moon in December by decorating lanterns and carving fruit. Takashi Itoh is one of the most celebrated fruit carvers in the world and a decorated champion in the field (yes, there are fruit-carving contests, people). Just one look at this website and you'll wish there was a Loi Krathong tradition in your area (or that Itoh was around to carve your Jack-O-Lanterns this Halloween).

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