Carving a future
A transplanted Angeleno brings artistic food flair to the Madison event scene.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Watermelon is the canvas, and fruits, vegetables, and chocolate fountains are the tools of Eder Valle’s new Madison venture, Fruta Artesana, a business that provides carved centerpieces and healthy, artistically arranged choices for catered events.
The fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. For years, Valle had observed his father whittling animal designs into fruits and vegetables and he developed a similar interest. Now, in addition to floral and fauna themes, Valle can create customized logos and more. “Tell me a story or favorite things about a company and I’ll make a story out of it,” he promises.
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Valle moved to Madison in 2003 after receiving a Posse Program scholarship from UW–Madison. The Posse Program awards scholarships to public high school students in major cities who have demonstrated extraordinary academic and leadership potential but may be overlooked by the traditional college selection process. Without the scholarship, Valle’s life could have been much different.
The 30-year-old Latino was the first in his family to go to college. Arriving in Madison was a culture shock at first, he admits, but a healthy change overall. “In the environment we grew up in prostitution and drug deals were common. So was death. We grew up seeing body bags just about every month or walking to or from school and hearing about shootings. It was normal for us.
“Here, I can go cycling. I can wear the color red without being asked if I’m in a gang. I get to go to the arboretum, see trees. I’m at peace,” he says.
Making lemonade from lemons, Valle graduated with a chemistry degree in 2008 and for the past five years has worked as a research technician for Agri Chemical in Madison.
He’s also convinced his family to leave L.A.
His brother moved first and they found a condo in Sun Prairie. “One day I woke up and told him that it was time for us to be good sons. We didn’t want our parents living in L.A. anymore. I hated the fact that my mom was taking the bus every day and walking through areas where gangs hung out or there were random drive-bys [shootings]. I convinced them to move here in 2012.”
Two years ago, Valle began practicing and perfecting his carving skills using razor-sharp knives to design hearts, roses, doves, and more.
In April, he launched Fruta Artesana, and with many of the larger area hotels and venues locked into exclusive food and beverage contracts, he’s also targeting the caterers and chefs themselves. “Our designs just make their work look even better,” he notes.
He considered a business loan to launch Fruta Artesana, but then chose to use his excellent credit rating to his benefit, securing a $9,000 credit card from Bank of America. He’ll need to cater eight large events or weddings or sell 85 centerpieces a year to break even, and the business’s major unveiling will occur at a 450-person Susan G. Komen fundraiser on Oct. 7.
Valle continues to juggle two jobs, producing his food creations at Madison’s FEED Kitchen as demand dictates. “I love my current job but I think this business venture is pretty cool. If it becomes successful, I want to run it, add to the economy, and represent me and my family where we add value to the city.”
Meanwhile, his father works in the kitchens of a couple of major hotels in Madison and the family lives together in a Sun Prairie condo. “This isn’t about making money,” Valle states. “It’s about helping my family out, helping potential employees out, and it keeps me humble.
“If this business takes off my brother and I are going to move out and give the condo to our parents,” he promises.
“Now it’s my turn to be the entrepreneur.”
Fruta Artesana LLC
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