Watching candy artisan Chef Wenbo Zhang create his intricate and delectable candies is a show that truly combines visual, culinary, and performing arts.
Traveling from Henan Province in China to perform exclusively at this year’s Epcot International Festival of the Arts, Chef Zhang is skilled in the traditional Chinese edible folk art of Sugar Painting and handcrafting Dragon’s Beard Candy. Both of these sugar arts date back thousands of years, with the expertise being passed down through apprenticeships from generation to generation.
For Sugar Painting, Chef Zhang uses a small ladle to meticulously drizzle melted sugar on to a marble slab to “paint” your choice of an animal – real or imagined. Just prior to hardening, a stick is imbedded in the sugar making it the most artful and elaborate lollipop you have ever seen or tasted!
Crafting Dragon’s Beard Candy is a tedious and extensive process where small batches of corn syrup are boiled, cooled, then carefully and slowly stretched creating hundreds of thin threads. The resulting threads are then wrapped around various fillings such as coconut shavings, sesame seeds, chocolate or, as Chef Zhang will be doing for the Festival, crushed peanuts and walnuts. How did this candy get its unusual name? Legend has it that during the Han Dynasty, an imperial chef “performed” for the emperor by making this new candy. The strands of this candy reminded the emperor of a dragon’s beard. As dragons were the symbol of the emperor, these sweet treats were originally restricted only to the ruling class.
Chef Zhang will be demonstrating his incredible talent on select days throughout the Festival at the China pavilion. The Dragon’s Beard candy is crafted in small batches by Chef Zhang so quantities will be limited. Due to the time-consuming preparation needed for these unique candies, the demonstrations will be on alternating dates. Be sure to check your Festival Times Guide for performance times so you can experience (and taste) these edible works of art.
Get more information on the Epcot International Festival of the Arts here.