Queenstown ice bar’s king of cool

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Auckland-based ice sculptor Victor Cagayat migrates south every 10 weeks to handcraft dazzling statues and touch up the furniture at Queenstown’s coolest bar. 

Everything at Minus 5 – where temperatures inside fluctuate from minus five to -10 degrees – is fashioned from ice, including the walls, seats, and glasses. 

Punters are only allowed to stay in the chilly Steamer Wharf watering hole for 30 minutes at a time and need to be kitted out in gloves, boots and jackets. 

By contrast, Cagayat works all day – often from 5am until 6pm – wearing just one layer of thermals underneath ski pants and a puffer jacket. 

Moving is the key to keeping warm, insists the Filipino-born artist: “I get used to it.” 

Starting with a small chainsaw, Cagayat cuts a basic design from blocks of ice shipped from Auckland, before detailing the work with smaller chisels. 

The more extravagant statues take Cagayat about two hours, but he can whip up a smaller one in 40 minutes.
Statues regularly need replacing as customers get interactive with them. 

Cagayat, in his 50s, has a lot of experience in the industry, learning to first carve in wood from 11-years-old. 

From there he progressed to becoming a “kitchen artist”, and now makes spectacular food creations as well as plying his ice skills at top Auckland hotels. 

It is rewarding work, he claims: “Usually, when you go out the door, everybody’s smiling.” 

Minus 5 assistant boss Blair Pattinson is a big fan of Cagayat’s work. 

“He’s phenomenal,” Pattinson says.