If you are a Food Network Challenge junkie like me, I’m sure you would know who Stevie Famulari is. She has competed in four challenges, the Kerry Vincent Mystery Challenge being the biggest hit when her cake had to be put down with a fire extinguisher. Her creativity and imagination has definitely brought her a long way–and that is why she keeps coming back.
Where do you usually get your inspiration when starting something new?
I have a sketchbook I carry with me. When an idea comes to mind, either from the setting, conversations with friends or colleagues or other, I put it in there. I have dozens of sketchbooks over the years. And the ideas have grown throughout the years.
What has been the strangest request you have ever asked to do?
There are far too many stories about those! As for the pieces I have done, I don’t think they are strange—though I hear others have said they are shocking!
If you were to be reincarnated, which famous artist would you come back as? Why?
I wouldn’t choose to be another person. There are many other people whom I would like to talk and work with. But to explore my own idea, ideals, and views is my goal–not to be someone else. As the sign on my desk says, “She decided to be herself, because everyone else was already taken.”
How did you get involved with the Food Network Challenges?
Years ago, the producers had called me and asked me to be on a Christmas Challenge. At the time, I did not have cable and had never seen the show. I was in a meeting which I stepped out of to take the initial call. After I talked with the producer, I stepped back into the meeting and continued working and mostly forgot about the call. A few days later, I received the next phone for the next stage of the process. The process took a short time, and I do not know how the producers specifically choose me–whether they saw me at the NYC Chocolate Fashion Show, or seen some of the larger scale edible designs, or other exhibit.
What made you want to be on the show?
It seemed to be a fun challenge. And it was very fun, very challenging, and I’m happy to still be there.
How do you feel about your creations fitting into the format of The Food Network Challenge?
Well, that’s interesting. I have been on 4 challenges which have aired, and re-aired multiple times. After being thrown into the format the first time (or jumping into it feet first–without knowing the format), I realized that it was not geared for art. It is very much geared for traditions in food and pastry arts. I have a pastry arts certificate, as well as a B.F.A, Masters (M.L.A), and presently working on my PhD in Food Arts & Landscape Architecture.
My work questions tradition. It’s the questioning and asking others to question tradition which I value.
The format of the Challenges needs to be changed to address modern, and more-so, post modern art. First, an artist needs to be one of the judges. This is important–an artist which looks at the form, materiality, color, scent, scale, texture and understanding the intention of the artwork.
Happily, over the years of being on it, I have seen the rules shift slightly. I have seen one or two judges become more open to my approach. Though my work may not win the $10,000 check presently (but someday soon!), it moves the Food Arts forward in a very public media, and it allows future artists more of a shot to win the prizes of the competitions. Also, the appearances encourage food artists and other artists to exhibit their works in public with pride and knowing of its positive effect on the food arts.
I have never shifted my art to work within the format of the competitions or the exhibition my art has been at. Rather, as answered throughout this interview, I ask them to shift their understanding to appreciate my approach for its own value. There are those that welcome this new understanding and those which do not.
Do you ever feel that people just don’t understand your work? How do you handle these situations?
It truly depends on the goals of the piece. If the primary goal is to have others simply understand it, then I would address the artwork differently, such as writing essays and lectures about the artwork, and asking for public opinions and reviews. This is not my entire goal. My goal is to get the work out there for discussion, questioning of traditions, pushing of traditions, or breaking and ignoring traditions entirely. With that goal–the work has been successful.
I do feel that there are those people who do appreciate the work, and those that do not. But for some reason, those that do not appreciate it still voice a very very strong response. This is good. A strong response, for both appreciation and other, means the work is affecting people on a deeper, gut level. And that effect means the work is successful.
Other than being creative, what else do you do on your free time?
Being creative and replenishing that creativity is a full time job, running a business, teaching, etc. However, additionally I have done triathlons for years, and now Masters swimming, running and cycling competitions. And, I am Professor and teach, with projects, grants, and presently PhD work. So–free time is not my lifestyle.
Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
My own show to move the food arts forward. And much much much sooner than 15 years!!
Last but not the least, what is your message to all the fans and people who have supported you?
I am truly flattered that I have fans. I did not realize this–and am honestly floored that there are people who support the ideals which I treasure. Blogging is not my thing, and I do not read or follow them. So, in that respect, I was not aware there were fans or discussions about me or my work.
I do get emails—both complimentary and other. And I do get a large amount of slack for artworks I have done, which comes with people saying ‘they don’t like me’- when it should rather be ‘they don’t like the art’, since they do not necessarily know me.
Then, I occasionally hear of those fantastic compliments–people that are proud, inspired by, or appreciate the artwork. And those compliments are deeply, deeply treasured more than I can express.