Garibaldi secondary international student Greta Francke from Germany puts the finishing touches on her gingerbread house, a church modeled after one in Aachen, Germany, which is known in the country as the city of gingerbread. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

UPDATED: Maple Ridge students win gold at gingerbread competition

Garibaldi secondary students entered two gingerbread houses into the competition in Surrey

The walls have been erected, windows put in and the landscaping prepped.

Santa Claus can even be seen trying to fit down the chimney.

Garibaldi secondary international students Greta Francke from Germany and Esther Ramirez from Spain, both Grade 11, have spent weeks labouring over their new houses, gingerbread houses, big winners in a regional competition in Surrey.

Francke was awarded a gold medal plus best professional project and Ramirez also received a gold medal and best detailed project.

This is the first year for the competition after a hiatus of six years. Previously the competition was held for 29 years at North Surrey secondary until the chef instructor at the school retired.

Now Chef Mike Doyle at Enver Creek secondary has taken the reins.

There were seven different schools taking part this year from around five different communities in the Lower Mainland. Twenty two gingerbread entries were created by approximately 42 students.

The gingerbread houses could have any theme, however, everything had to be edible and a maximum of 91 centimetres tall.

Francke and Ramirez made their houses between 43 centimetres and 51 centimetres tall on a piece of plywood.

They started their projects two weeks before the competition and worked at them for three hours every day with Chef Lesnes Daniel, head of the culinary department at Garibaldi secondary.

Francke created a church with a sugar cone steeple with pine trees made from upside down sugar cones, pretzel benches and a path leading to the front door made from melted sugar with tin foil underneath to give it some sparkle.

She got the idea from a church in Aachen, Germany, which is known in the country as the city of gingerbread.

The most difficult part of making the church was creating the stained glass windows made out of melted Life Savers.

“Because it’s a lot of tiny pieces,” she said.

“Before you put the candy in (the gingerbread), of course, you have to cut the dough. You cut the dough, you bake it, then you cut it again,” Francke continued.

Ramirez’s called her project My Grandma’s House. Her’s was a more traditional gingerbread house, ‘L’-shaped with Santa Claus trying to get down the chimney. It had windows made with melted sugar as the glass panes surrounded by trees made from Rice Krispies, a snowman made from icing and sugar and a fountain made from marzipan and melted sugar to look like water.

The hardest part for her was the icing decorations.

“All the decorations of the windows, all of them are different but they all have to look the same,” said Ramirez.

She got the idea for her gingerbread house from a book.

The competition was open to high school students from around the province in a culinary program.

Doyle’s students started their projects at the beginning of November.

“Kids look at Cake Boss and these cooking shows on The Food Network and amazingly they get it all done in an hour,” laughed Doyle.

“A work load for something like this takes weeks to do. I think they are all a little bit surprised at the time it takes to do it,” he said.

A big challenge for Doyle as an instructor was to remember that this is usually the first time students have worked on a gingerbread project of this scale before.

“They don’t have the technique. So you work very closely and individually with each group that is going into it,” he said.

Students dropped off their pieces in between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 14. There were three judges including Chef Terry Larsen who was a 20 year culinary teacher at Enver Creek before retiring two years ago.

At around 11:30 a.m. the winners were announced.

Categories included, best overall entry, best theme throughout, best showing or use of gingerbread, best use of colour, best table presentation, most details, most unique or original idea, most professional, most creative and most skillful use of icing.

Doyle says this is another avenue that allows students to shine.

“It helps to build self esteem and confidence and it is a way to showcase their talents.”

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Garibaldi secondary international students Esther Ramirez from Spain puts the finishing touches on her gingerbread house on Wednesday called My Grandma’s House. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

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