Smith not afraid of ‘Outrageous Pumpkins’ carving challenges

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville resident David Smith is among seven pumpkin carvers taking on challenges on the Food Network’s “Outrageous Pumpkins” series.

Deadly Jack-o’-Lanterns, Trick-or-Treating Nightmare and Zombie Beasts aren’t the titles of the latest horror movies but rather episodes in the new season of “Outrageous Pumpkins” on the Food Network.

Westerville resident David Smith, a professional ice sculptor and owner of Frost Lion Ice Plus, is one of seven artists trying to carve their way to the title of “Outrageous Pumpkins” champion and a $25,000 Halloween treat.

The show premiered at 10 p.m. Sept. 20 and includes four episodes.

Smith, 41, isn’t new to fierce competition.

“It started in 2012 when I entered a pumpkin-carving contest as a stand-in,” he said. “I was just getting started and spent a couple days working on a portfolio. I took last place.”

But it was all uphill from there.

In 2013, the Food Network invited Smith to compete on “Halloween Wars 3,” where he and his team, the Psychotic Misfits, took second place in the championships. He has also participated in “Christmas Cake Wars.”

Smith competes regularly in the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, and won Fan Choice Gold in 2017.

While competing in the Halloween shows, Smith said, he enjoys being an ambassador for everyday scares and fun.

He advanced after the first episode of “Outrageous Pumpkins,” in which contestants were challenged to master the classic Halloween jack-o’-lantern and feature a dynamic use of light.

In the same episode’s Quick Carve round, contestants had to depict the struggle between good and evil.

“Overall, I’ve been a fan of the speed challenge,” Smith said. “It’s exciting. It’s a mini-challenge with no forgiveness. It’s dangerous, exciting and really chaotic. I’m good under stress.”

Smith said Brandy Davis of Nampa, Idaho, a special-effects artist with a Guinness World Record for carving the largest jack-o’-lantern, is talented, but Danny Kissel, a full-time artist from Newville, Pennsylvania, is his No. 1 competition for the title.

“It’s a small carnival act of guys and girls who do this for a living,” Smith said. “You hear about the talent level of your fellow artists. It’s an enlightening experience to see what you’ve heard about on these shows.”

Smith, who has lived in Westerville for more than 10 years, said his profession is one of the most dangerous, lending itself to getting frostbite, burns or cuts.

“We’re in situations around sharp objects,” he said. “You almost don’t make it out of a pumpkin event without a cut or two. It’s a dangerous endeavor.”

For amateur pumpkin carvers, Smith said, one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money, but patience is a plus.

“Get easy tools,” he said. “They don’t need to be very sharp. We repurpose tools from random objects. You just need a few tools and a good picture. If I can make a mess for a living, anyone can.”

Smith attended Columbus Culinary Institute at Bradford School in 2009.

He took a one-day program for carving ice that evolved into an apprenticeship, and the school allowed him to graduate with a degree in ice carving, he said.

“I started food carving out of culinary school,” Smith said.

He said he usually doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in local special events because his profession involves traveling across the country, but he has been involved in Pumpkinpalooza, a benefit presented by Together with Important Goals of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Smith said he also has participated in the fall festivities at Pigeon Roost Farm, 4413 National Road SW in Hebron in Licking County.

Janice Jutte, who owns Pigeon Roost Farm with her husband, Ralph, said Smith has been coming to the farm to carve for quite a few years.

“He does amazing work and is such a great guy,” she said. “He’ll be here a few times this fall. What’s fun is to take just a pumpkin and watch it as it comes to life.”

Jutte specifically recalls a large dragon that Smith and fellow pumpkin carver Tator Edwards created one year.

“It was wonderful,” she said.

Jutte said she has loved watching Smith on “Outrageous Pumpkins.”

“He deserves to be there and share his art,” she said.

Some of Smith’s pumpkin carvings at the farm are displayed on the Pigeon Roost Farm Facebook page. 

For more information about Smith’s work, go to frostlioniceplus.com. For more details about the show, go to foodnetwork.com/shows/outrageous-pumpkins.