Chainsaw sculptor Chad Gainey returns to Food Network's 'Halloween Wars'
Chipley-based chainsaw sculptor Chad Gainey stars on Food Network's "Halloween Wars," Season 10, premiering at 8 p.m. CT Sunday.
In this season's first episode, "Monster Road Trip" with host Jonathan Bennett, the six teams — each made up of an expert pumpkin carver, cake artist and sugar master — will be given their first Halloween-themed challenge. Judges Shinmin Li and Todd Tucker will be joined by actor Jeremy Ray Taylor, who starred as Ben Hanscom in the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King's novel "It."
Gainey, who first appeared on Season 6, has the chance to redeem himself as a pumpkin carver on Team Candy Coroners. Gainey's team — a nod to his favorite Halloween candy, candy corn — also includes cake artist Amy McBride, who hails from the Tampa area, and sugar extraordinaire Janet Barron from Texas.
"They introduce you to the team a little bit before the show to get a foundation and introduction, so you feel comfortable working with people you don't know, and then it's go-time," Gainey said. "Having the experience of doing it before, I could go in a little more pumped and a little more willing to take risks. This season I really focused on what I could do."
The teams battle it out over five episodes during Season 10 before the winning team takes home the $50,000 grand prize.
"There are a lot of great artists — a cool part of this show," Gainey said. "The artists are all experts in their own areas and can make amazing stuff out of cake to make it look like a person staring at you, even sugar work by sugar artists looks like blown glass. It has a lot of ups and downs, too. You put so much into a piece, but there's a time limit and artists who have never worked together before, and then something always happens."
A drive through the Panama City area that was ravaged by Hurricane Michael's hit in October 2018, and it's easy to see what Gainey can do with a chainsaw — whether transforming a pine tree stump into a soaring Bald Eagle sculpture or sculpting octopus tentacles into an oak tree at Oaks by the Bay Park.
But when it comes to sculpting Jack-o-lanterns, Gainey trades his chainsaw for "clay loop tools made for sculpting clay." The wood handle with a thin wire loop at the end easily scoops out the pumpkin, he explained.
"I also use a small hand saw that's sharp and controllable," Gainey said. "Knives are OK, but it's easier to over cut and harder to control. I can use a 3-inch saw and get detailed."
Carving pumpkins comes naturally for Gainey, who first began carving out his path to becoming a chainsaw sculptor nearly a decade ago while teaching agriculture at Holmes County High School in Bonifay — just north of where he grew up in Vernon. In 2015, Gainey, who resides in Sunny Hills, became an ambassador for Husqvarna and embraced his chainsaw sculpting talent full-time.
"I've always liked Halloween. I have three small kids — ages 10, 8 and 4. They like to get into costumes and dress up for Halloween. Every year we have a theme," Gainey said.
Last year, the Gainey family became the Addams family — complete with "a pumpkin basket decorated as Cousin Itt," during Halloween festivities at Disney World. But it was a family trip to Disney about seven years ago, when Gainey entered a pumpkin carving contest at the campgrounds — and won — that really sparked his competitive pumpkin carving spirit.
"I carved Capt. Davy Jones with a pocket knife and a plastic spoon. That's when my 3-D pumpkins started," Gainey said. "This show ('Halloween Wars') is the only opportunity at carving giant pumpkins, something we don't see. We'll get big ones that are 70 to 80 pounds, but on the show, they have 300- to 400-pound pumpkins."
With pumpkin season so limited, he admitted it's also hard to practice, but he's found a good alternative.
"Butternut squash carves real similar," he said. "But I'm basically leaning on wood carving background for what I take out and how to take it out. The process is similar to wood sculpting because it's a subtraction art, removing art to create something. With some of the giant pumpkins on 'Halloween Wars,' I can use power tools, but there are some differences. The pumpkin is hollow and has limited material. I have to pay attention to how it's naturally shaped, so I can reassemble them."
His pumpkin creations have included a castle theme, with a castle in the front and a dragon arching its wings from the back.
"Jack-o-lanterns are fun with faces and expressions. Just because it's similar to what I do with wood," he said. "I've made a witch's cauldron, a garbage bag with limbs — not typical Jack-o-lanterns. That's the fun of pumpkins; get creative and play with it and see where it goes. It's such a temporary medium; it's going to rot. There's no way to preserve them. With wood sculpture, I put so much time and don't want to mess it up, but with the pumpkin, I know it's not going to last forever. It's a good time; it's a lot of fun."
For more about Chad Gainey Sculpture, visit Facebook.com/chadgaineysculpture.