SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Stephan Baity can often be seen jetting from one dining facility to another on the Wofford College campus in a golf cart. Starting Sunday night, he’ll be seen by Food Network viewers on the show “Halloween Wars.”
The show premieres Sept. 13 at 9 p.m.
Baity, director of culinary operations for Wofford’s culinary partner AVI, ensures the campus dining experience is consistent. He’s made Food Network appearances over the years on the shows “Cake Wars” and “Halloween Wars.” This will be his first appearance on the channel in a few years after taking a break. He’s made a name for himself as a carving culinarian. Before COVID-19 halted travel and much of the world’s activities, he won two awards for live carving at the Culinary Olympics hosted by the German Chefs Association.
He didn’t grow up carving jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, and he never considered himself an artist. But he pursued a career as a chef and enrolled in culinary school at 17.
“I paid $38,000, I distinctly remember the exact number because I paid every dime of it myself,” Baity says.
In 1999, Baity was working as a chef manager in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He saw other chefs working on ice carvings before a reception. He was responsible for cocktail meatballs that evening, but he decided to rush out to buy a cheap watermelon and a pumpkin carving kit. His creation was popular.
“It wasn’t as prevalent as it is today,” says Baity of fruit carving. “If you wanted to see a carved piece of fruit, you had to get on a cruise ship.”
Baity spent hours teaching himself the art of fruit carving. He graduated from the plastic-handled kit he found in the drug store and transitioned to an Exacto knife then to the Thai fruit carving knife that he uses today.
Along the way, he’s won enough awards to fill boxes that are in storage at home. He’s had carving stations at celebrity events, including a fundraiser hosted by Michael Jordan. The Food Network appearances have inspired young chefs like Ashten Garrett, who’s had his own Food Network success. Baity became a mentor to Garrett, and Garrett used a recommendation that Baity offered as the foreword to his 2020 cookbook, “A Few of my Favorites.”
Baity can’t talk much about what viewers will see on this season’s “Halloween Wars,” but this time on the Food Network feels different. Baity’s father died three years ago. His dad often attended press events surrounding his appearances; he was a media favorite when describing his son as “certified, bonafide and qualified.”
“I’d never seen my dad so happy,” says Baity. “He was the greatest hype man. I would take him with me, and everyone loved him.”