Halloween Wars’ pumpkin carver Lenny Calvin talks to FoodSided


Pumpkin carver Lenny Calvin is back on Food Network’s Halloween Wars. As the finale airs tonight, Calvin spoke to FoodSided about his experience.

Lenny Calvin, an accomplished pumpkin carver, returned to compete in Food Network’s Halloween Wars Season 8. For those unfamiliar with the show, teams of three create outrageous Halloween displays, which incorporate pumpkin, cake and sugar work. One look at these impressive displays will both terrify and astonish you.

Part of the draw for this Food Network show is the amazing talents of the contestants. Each season the themed get even more outlandish. Still, these creative contestants find new and inventive ways to exceed everyone’s expectations.

In Halloween Wars Season 8, one of the teams in the finale is Zesty Zombies. That team’s pumpkin carver is Lenny Calvin. Calvin had previously appeared on Halloween Wars and is even featured in this season’s contest preview episode. The talented pumpkin carver had his work cut out for him this time around.

Lenny Calvin of Zesty Zombies starts carving a character out of pumpkin , as seen on Halloween Wars, Season 8. photo provided by Food Network

Recently, I spoke with Calvin and asked, why did you want to come back? Calvin said “I made it to the final three in the first season I was on, and the title of Halloween Wars Champion is cool so I came back to go for it. I enjoy competition and working with other artists – I love the collaboration and the ideas keep getting bigger & better, so I thought I would come back for another season and see if I could get all the way to the end.”

This season has seen Calvin go big. Almost every week, the judges have commented on his design details and impressive carving. Even though there have been a few mistakes, he has made it further this season. One of the interesting aspects to his team’s dynamic is that Calvin even stepped out of his comfort zone and tackled sugar.

I asked Calvin, if he knew how to decorate cakes or work with sugar. He said “No I do not but I did learn on the fly how to sculpt with chocolate, which was a little nerve-wracking. I’ve worked with clay before and found it was very similar to how you manipulate clay.”

“During one of the challenges, one of the pumpkins was rotten inside and we didn’t have any more pumpkins to finish sculpting the character so we had to use chocolate. Kimberly, the cake artist on my team, gave me a quick demo of how to handle chocolate and I ended up getting a lot of compliments from judge, Shinmin Li, who thought I had been working with chocolate for a long time, not knowing that I had been working with chocolate for a total of 45 minutes in my life! To receive a compliment from someone as talented as her was really great.”

Contestants with Zesty Zombies, Lenny Calvin, Kimberly Hall and Shelby Bower, as seen on Halloween Wars, Season 8. photo provided by Food Network

This example of teamwork is part of what made Zesty Zombies so successful this season. These teams need to find a way to work together and communicate efficiently. With that concept in mind, I asked Calvin, in the first episode, your team had a few setbacks. How important is a good team dynamic to this competition?

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  • “Having a good team dynamic is everything. Yes, in the first episode the sugar artist on my team, Shelby, had an issue with the backboard which was made out of sugar – it broke. Sugar is so fragile that if there’s any fluctuation in air temperature it can break. We were able to come back from it though. Sometimes you just need an encouraging word and to remind someone in the panic moment that they’re good at what they do, and the next one they make will be even better than the first one, which it was.”

    Beyond the incredible Halloween displays, fans of Halloween Wars appreciate the special celebrity guest judges on each episode. This season has been filled with horror icons. Calvin is just as much a fan of the celebrity appearances as fans of the show.

    Regarding his favorite celebrity judge/guest, Calvin said “Todd Tucker is one of my favorites since I enjoy talking with him about the aspects of what he does for a living. I’ve always wanted to get into the special effects world, and so any directors or special effects artists are my favorite judges/surprise guests. They’re my rock stars.”

    As many people prepare to carve their own pumpkins, an expert pumpkin carver, like Lenny Calvin must have tackled some quite astounding pumpkin carvings in his career. Calvin recalled his most ambitious pumpkin carving story.

    “I worked on a 1,200 pound pumpkin once! I did a spin on what a typical jack-o’-lantern would look like but there was also a creature behind it. It took 2 days to carve — each tooth of the jack-o’-lantern had a different shape and were carved out of a Cinderella pumpkin. I was so excited to work on a pumpkin over 1,000 pounds and have complete free range to be able to create whatever I wanted that I felt like a little kid again!”

    Since I doubt that my household would ever dream to attempt to carve a 1,200 pound pumpkin, I asked Calvin for some easy tips for the home carver. These tips will definitely impress your neighborhood trick or treaters.

    “Everyone does whatever they create for the face of the jack-o-lantern but usually forget about the backdrop of the pumpkin. My suggestion is to draw clouds or a moon or bats in the background and to cut the design out on angles, so when light comes out of the design and you pull the pumpkin away from the wall, the backdrop design silhouette will actually be reflected on the wall also.”

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    Thank you to Lenny Calvin for taking the time to chat with me about his experience on Halloween Wars and pumpkin carving. Hopefully my jack-o-latern will look a little more professional this Halloween.

    Don’t forget to tune into tonight’s Halloween Wars Season 8 finale on Food Network.