The pumpkin king: Wilson resident wins big on Halloween Wars

Drew Butler
Team Mummies Rejects, Halloween Wars Season 10 winners. The team is made up of Pumpkin Carver Daniel Miller of Wilson, left, along with Cake Creator Hemu Basu, and Sugar Expect Steve Weiss.

Wilson resident Daniel Miller was on the winning team of the Food Network series Halloween Wars. The show’s 10th season finale aired Sunday evening, and Miller and his team, the Mummies Rejects, were named the winners and were able to split a $50,000 grand prize.

Miller served as the team’s pumpkin carver, and his teammates were cake creator Hemu Basu and sugar artist Steve Weiss. Miller said it feels great to be on the winning team, but it hasn’t really set in yet.

“It’s kind of a surreal experience, and I wouldn’t know how to describe it,” he said.

He described the difference between shooting the show and watching it later on television.

“I don’t remember saying all the goofy stuff that made the show,” Miller said. “You get lost in the moment while you’re there, so you don’t get to really take in everything. Getting to watch it was really cool because then can remember the parts you forgot about, and you get to see the things you weren’t a part of.”

In each episode of Halloween Wars, the competing teams face off against one another in two separate challenges to make a spooky creation. The first challenge in each episode is smaller and gives the winning team an advantage in the second, larger challenge. Miller said the second challenge in the final episode was by far the most difficult.

“The display size was so much bigger,” Miller said. “You’ve got a limited amount of time to finish it, but then you go to start putting elements on the display, and you’re thinking that’s a lot of real estate we’ve got to fill up. So you start to make more stuff.”

Once the halfway mark passed on the timer, he said everything started falling into place.

“After that lull right around the middle, it just started appearing,” Miller said. “Then everybody realized we can make this work.”

In addition to the work that goes into creating the visual elements, there is also a tasting element to every challenge and each team comes up with a little story to describe their work. Miller was the one who provided the narration to the audience as well as the judges when his team was presenting their work.

“I knew I was going to be the one talking, but I didn’t know I was going to be the one who had to describe it to the judges,” Miller said. “I thought Steve (Weiss), the sugar guy would be the one to do it, but five minutes before we presented the first challenge I found out it was going to be me. Steve’s an excellent cook and an excellent sugar artist, so he’ll make these exquisite dishes for the tasting element. But it’s never something like a s’more. It’s always got some fancy name that I’m not accustomed to!”

Miller said he is unsure what he will do with his prize money, but he hopes to be able to make some improvements to his carving shed and his carving equipment. In addition to carving pumpkins, Miller also creates wooden sculptures using a chainsaw.

He gave some advice to anyone who thinks they might want to be on the show.

“It’s a whole different experience than what you think it is,” Miller said. “It’s very fast paced, and it’s very taxing. It’ll try your patience. You just need to have good people skills and be able to do things in a hurry.”