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PALM LATITUDES

CLOSE-UP : The Iceman Sculpteth

August 01, 1993|Idelle Davidson

Last March, when Los Angeles chef Jacques Tokar and two teammates took first prize in an international carving competition in Fairbanks, Alaska, they knew they had created a masterpiece--at least until the sun came out.

Working for almost a week with a chisel and chain saw in below-freezing weather, Tokar and San Diego ice carvers Mark Donovan and Christina Swedlow sculpted an enormous fantasy called "Prisoner From Hell." A warrior emerged from 30,000 pounds of arctic ice to do battle with an angry, 15-foot-tall serpent. A princess, a crystal wall and an arm pushing its way through prison bars added drama to the scene.

"We didn't know what we would come up with until we started. Our imaginations just took off," Tokar recalls.

Currently a supervising chef at an L.A. airline-catering company, Tokar likes to work big. Chocolate, fruit, ice--the mediums are as unusual as the art. Three years ago, he created what Baskin-Robbins touted as the world's largest ice cream sculpture--a bust of Mikhail S. Gorbachev crafted from 1,250 pounds of chocolate (that's 900,000 calories). The French-born Tokar created his first ice sculpture about 20 years ago when he was a culinary artist at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He gladly describes his various achievements: a bust of ex-Beverly Hills Mayor Edward I. Brown sculpted from shortening, a 2,000-pound ice gramophone for a Grammy party, and a four-foot replica of the Wailing Wall, created for a wedding, made from 150 pounds of chopped liver.

"I can carve anything," Tokar says. "I just go crazy."

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