New standards set for creating award-winning gingerbread houses

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George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, in Toronto (considered one of the top culinary institutions in Canada) recently held its annual Gingerbread House contest, a favourite among the students and staff.

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And this year’s creations, based on the theme of a well-known house in film or literature, did not disappoint.

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The students’ creations could only be described as whimsical and magical, and reflective of the holiday season. Many had twinkling lights throughout, and the beveled glass on the windows was actually blown sugar. The details on each of the 30-plus homes on display were painstaking and precise, with little hidden secrets embedded into the details – one house had a tiny signature on the “stone” steps leading to the front door. Another – an ode to Alice In Wonderland – had Alice breaking through the roof. Still another had a tiny black cat peeking out a window. Harry Potter proved to be a popular theme, along with the Home Alone house, and many students were taken by the film Up, creating sugary balloons seemingly floating out of chimneys.

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The students had just one rule: Everything had to be edible, except the lights.

“I am absolutely astonished at the work the students have put in these  houses,” said Chef Sue Fleming, a professor at the Chef School, and the event organizer. “They just keep getting better and better.”

“It’s all about community building,” added George Brown’s pastry chef professor Vivian Lam. “The calibre of work is extraordinary.”

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Students who created the houses on display in the college’s atrium ranged in age from early 20s to 40s “but the majority are in their mid-20s” said Fleming, adding “some of these houses took more than 100 hours to create.”

There was a contest for first, second and third prizes, along with a People’s Choice award (full disclosure: I was a judge – a most difficult job!) and best of all – many of the houses are going to be auctioned off with monies raised returning to George Brown to support students going through the culinary programs.

Gingerbread houses’ origins can be traced back to Germany in the 16th century, and nothing was too big or too ornate during that era. They’ve evolved throughout the years, but continue to hold a special place of honour during Christmas.

These Canadian gingerbread houses created by the George Brown students have set standards for a time-honoured art that continues to delight, especially during the holiday season.

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