Most people look at a watermelon and see wedges or cubes. Eder Valle, on the other hand, envisions a rose, a heart or some other form to transform ordinary fruit into a beautifully crafted sculpture.
Valle, 30, carves artistic designs and shapes into fruit for events including weddings, quinceañeras, baby showers, private business gatherings, grand openings and other unique occasions where a show-stopping table centerpiece is needed to make a statement.
“We focus on quality and creativity when we make our products. We start by sourcing the freshest fruit we can find,” said Valle. “Then, we work closely with our customers to plan out the edible table display that will meet their needs for the event.”
The fun part for Valle is spending hours ensuring his designs are carved with precision and care. Much of his work is elaborate, meaning the creations require a lot of patience.
Valle adds that 3D thinking also is a required skill to be successful at his craft.
Using special knives that are razor sharp and thin, Valle carves watermelons, strawberries, pineapples, oranges, mangos, guava, jicama, kiwi, honeydew melons, grapes and bananas into intricate shapes, based on a customer’s favorite memories and history.
Valle said when he first started, carving fruit would take him up to four hours, but as his skills have grown, he can complete some designs in about 45 minutes.
A recent client hosted a party for 100 people with 12 custom designs, two chocolate fountains and more than 100 fruit skewers, which he completed in less than 10 hours. All the floral designs and fonts were carved the night before, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
The fruit skewers and platters were prepared the following morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and refrigerated to ensure freshness and then transported to the event in thermal boxes known as Cambros.
Valle came up with the idea for Fruta Artesana two years ago when he noticed his father, Leo, was creating food designs for family parties and special occasions.
“He invested time and commitment to transform regular food into works of art,” Valle said. “I became curious about the possibilities of starting a business. After much research, hundreds of hours of practice and countless spreadsheets, our business became a reality.”
Fruta Artesana launched in April and is based at Food Enterprise and Economic Development (FEED) Kitchens in Madison, which has fully equipped commercial kitchens available for rent by the hour for businesses and individuals seeking to sell food to the public, providing them with a legal and licensed facility to prepare their food.
Valle said FEED Kitchens is a great support system for culinary startups.
“FEED Kitchens provides a list of commercial food suppliers,” he said. “One of our main goals is to source fruit from local growers and we are open to exploring different options.”
Valle wanted the name for his business to be grounded in its origins. “Fruta” is the Spanish word for fruit and “artesana” describes a skilled craft worker who makes or creates things by hand.
Valle grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, where he saw his parents both work two jobs to make ends meet.
“I am motivated by their struggle, their hardship and sacrifice that they made for the family,” he said. “Their struggle has kept me focused and optimistic that the future is bright. Whenever I think that I am having a rough day, I remember our past and it motivates me to push the envelope further.”
While in Los Angeles, Valle earned a leadership and merit-based scholarship through the Posse Foundation Inc., which identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Life eventually led Valle to Wisconsin, where he enrolled at UW-Madison and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
Valle is optimistic about the future of his company but holds down another job as he continues to build his business.
“Our goal is to become the next major trend in healthy art and centerpiece designs,” he said. “While I’m not quite there yet, I really love the possibility of eventually doing this full time. I enjoy living out my ambitions and turning them into reality.”