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Dominic Palazzolo has combined wax and tallow—rendered animal fat—to create detailed sculptures for over a decade. With cruise liners and the military as loyal customers, he’ll be around for years to come.
Why tallow? Chefs 300 years ago were working with beeswax. They thought, what if we melt the beeswax and tallow together to form sculptures? I looked at that formula and realized I can get deodorized, purified animal fat [which lasts longer], and came up with modern tallow. It’s a blend of five waxes and purified fat. It has a shelf life of years and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
When did you start sculpting with it? In the 1990s I competed in national competitions, I could pull sugar into shapes and work with chocolate. But I was interested in making a real sculpture. I decided this was my calling.
Who buys your work? I sell to the global marketplace. Cruise ships, high-end golf clubs. The military loves tallow, they always have. I’m known as the resource [for tallow]. A few years ago the White House bought some of my materials to make a tallow sculpture.
Do you have a favorite tallow sculpture? Victorian Bust. The way the human figure is shaped lends itself to this medium because it looks like marble.
How do people react to your occupation? When I started out, people thought I was a fool. Those same people loved me when I made it work.
Palazzolo’s work can be found at culinart.com
Photograph courtesy Culinart, Inc.
Originally published in the February 2012 issue.