My happy place: Tim Aspinall

By Bronwyn Sell

Tim Aspinall with his margarine sculpting which is his happy place. Photo / Doug Sherring
Tim Aspinall with his margarine sculpting which is his happy place. Photo / Doug Sherring

Tim Aspinall, head of the North Shore International Academy hospitality school, is chief judge of the 2013 Bakels Supreme Pie Awards, which will be announced on Tuesday.

Tim Aspinall is happiest when he is creating works of art - with margarine. My happy place is being the creator, because you can dream up good pieces and then create them. I create these pieces out of margarine.

I can sculpt anything and everything but my forte is animals and mythological creatures. I love doing horses - they have a lot of detail, and you can put them into any stance to create a mood or portray your feelings.

You can get a lot of detail and movement into the sculptures - I've done a girl skipping, with only the skipping rope touching the ground, and her hair flying out behind her. Things like that are a challenge, and that's the awesome part of it.

I'm a chef by trade. I did my apprenticeship in the army and as part of my training in the 1970s I went to hotels and resorts and saw a margarine sculpture being created that I didn't think was good enough.

I challenged the guy who made it, and he challenged me back and said, "Enter the competitions, and let's see how good you are." So I competed a couple of months later and won, and never looked back.

When I'm creating I'll head off into my own realm and get lost in it. I'll start by thinking about the theme that's required and come up with an idea. Then I make a detailed welded steel frame, like a skeleton.

The margarine is a really hard version of the margarine you make flaky puff pastries with, designed to be used in the tropics. I soften it first in the microwave, mould it with my hands and apply it to the armature. I'll bulk it up, make a crude shape of what I want, and then detail it with a little spoon and knife and my hands. I'll work it to a fine detail, then glaze and present it.

Watching people's expressions and seeing them make a connection with the sculpture is the best part. I can make a warrior, for example, and the guys will come in and say, "Wow, look at these muscles. He copied me!" And the girls look at it and say, "Gee whiz, I'd like to meet that guy."

You see kids stand in front of a bird sculpture and go, "Waaaooow - imagine if that thing was flying around." And they're talking about a bit of butter. That's the finale, that's the buzz.

Sculpting has kept me balanced over the years, because it's so relaxing and rewarding and refreshing and recharging, and I use it to motivate and inspire other people. And it's good for the complexion - good for my hands.

- Herald on Sunday

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