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A&E >  Food

Spokane chef earns national honors with watermelon-carving skills

Spokane’s Ryan Allison is a winner in the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s Annual Watermelon Carving Contest. 

The 21-year-old chef at Manito Golf and Country Club took third place in the Funniest category and fourth place in both Best Animal and Best Star-Spangled, or patriotic, categories.

There were four winners in each of the five categories, including Most Elegant and Best Fruit Basket. Allison entered all five this year as well as last year. In 2013, he won first place in both the Funniest and Watermelephant categories as well as third place in Best Fruit Basket.

Allison prefers carving watermelons and turnips to pumpkins. “I’m not as good with pumpkins,” he said.

The 2013 graduate of the culinary program at Spokane Community College usually carves turnips into small flowers for buffet and banquet displays. He likes to work with them because “they’re a more resilient root vegetable, and they don’t discolor easily.”

When it comes to watermelon carving, Allison said, “bigger is better because you have more space to work with. You have more canvas.”

The biggest challenge: They’re “really, really juicy. There’s juice everywhere. That’s half the fun.”

Allison carved the award-winning watermelons in his living room last summer, then sent photos of the finished products to the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

“I usually buy one or two extra, which was a good thing (this year) because I dropped one on the way into the house,” he said.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board, established in 1989, is the nonprofit marketing and communications branch of the watermelon industry.

The contest is held in July during National Watermelon Month. This year, there were nearly 100 entries, the most in the history of the contest.

To view the winning carvings, visit Carving-Winners or the “Carvings & Entertainment” page on

To see more of Allison’s work, visit his website, www.thegarnish

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