The Fruits of Her Labor

Virginia Pappas combines her love for carving with the culinary arts to create edible masterpieces

Written by Alison Clary  /  Photography by Grant L. Gursky

The beauty of food, according to local fruit carver Virginia Pappas, relies just as much on appearance as it does taste.

“I always believe you eat with your eyes first,” Pappas said.

While a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Pappas first recognized her pure love of, and talent for, carving in a puppetry-and-marionette class. She found herself excelling whenever she worked with pinewood.

“It was a very long and tough process, but I really liked how I could use my hands to bring the wood to life,” Pappas said.

After graduating, Pappas ran a successful interior-design company, but that did not keep her from wielding her carving knife in her free time. She continued to develop her carving skills as she created a full portfolio of puppets and figurines.

When Pappas stumbled upon an intricately carved fruit display on a cruise ship 25 years ago, it was kismet. She immediately saw fruit carving as an opportunity to combine her love for carving with the culinary arts.

Without any sort of formal culinary training, Pappas began experimenting with carving smaller fruits into birds and flowers. Over time, she mastered the ability to transform all sizes and varieties of fruit into larger edible masterpieces.

“Fruit is much easier to work with than pinewood. It is much more forgiving,” stated Virginia.

Her foodscapes have become the focal points of many local events, such as weddings, baby showers, and other community and family gatherings. Before she brings one of her foodscapes to an event, Pappas meticulously plans her creation to complement the event’s theme. She then spends several hours ensuring each and every detail, including minute engraving, is crafted with exquisite precision.

Her final products have included a wide range of scenery, including Christmas sleighs pulled by reindeer, pirate ships, and floral designs. Through creating her elaborate displays, Pappas brings the fruit to life and gives it personality.

While Virginia largely considers her fruit carving to be a hobby and not a business endeavor, she has found a way to use her skills as a way to give back to the community. She has taught several classes to benefit the Ocean City Art League, and she has allowed for private classes to serve as raffle prizes at local charity events.

“I believe God gave me the natural ability to carve and draw,” Virginia said. “I always strive to take these skills I was blessed with and use them to give back to the community and help other artists.”