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Holiday tradition continues for Culinary Arts students

No sweet treat symbolizes the holidays quite like gingerbread, and juniors in the Culinary Arts program are showcasing their baking skills and imaginations this week as they take part in the annual gingerbread house construction project at the HFM Career and Technical Center.

The gingerbread house project is an annual tradition that takes place during the holiday season at the HFM CTC. Students are tasked with constructing a gingerbread structure that stands by itself and is creatively decorated. According to Culinary Arts instructor Chef Todd Harper, he decided to keep the tradition alive when he took over the program.

“It encompasses a little bit of everything that we teach on a daily basis when preparing our students for college or the workforce. Students have to research, plan, and even use mathematical skills when it comes to measuring ingredients.” Harper also said that while the students work on their projects individually, there’s also a lot of teamwork involved. 

“There’s lots of collaboration that goes into this project, and the students are always bouncing ideas off their classmates to help each other out,” he said.

Students begin their projects by sketching out a design on paper. Next, they trace their designs onto cardboard, cut out the pieces, and tape them together to make sure everything fits together correctly. Once done with the cardboard structures, students mix the dough! Batches and batches of gingerbread are made, chilled, rolled out to the proper thickness, and cut into shape using the cardboard templates. Chef Harper estimates the class will prepare over 370 pounds of gingerbread! After baking, the students will whip up the royal icing – and lots of it! 77 pounds of ‘glue’, as bakers call it, will be used to hold the gingerbread pieces together! The students will then focus their efforts on assembling and decorating their houses using a variety of Christmas type candies: gumdrops, marshmallows, and candy canes to name a few. From start to finish, they are given two weeks to complete their projects. Students will be graded on various factors including design, creativity, quality, even all the decorations being used. 

A student cuts gingerbread with a chef's knife to form a wall of her project.

Sabrina Schwartz, a junior from Fonda-Fultonville Central School, is pictured cutting gingerbread dough for her project.

Sabrina Schwartz, a junior from Fonda-Fultonville Central School, said her goal is to design her project after the gingerbread house of the Wicked Witch from the children’s fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’. 

“I just thought it was the perfect idea. An average looking gingerbread house to me is kind of boring. I really wanted to go big and make it look sweet and delicious,” Schwartz said.

Asked what she likes best about the gingerbread project, Schwartz said being challenged.

“Everything needs to be so precise with this project. It’s quite the challenge, but I enjoy it,” the Culinary student said.

Schwartz said she aspires to work as an executive in the hospitality/restaurant industry and says the skills she’s acquired in the Culinary Arts program at the HFM CTC will help prepare her when it’s time to enter the workforce.

According to Harper, when the projects are complete they will be put on display in the halls of the HFM Career and Technical Center for everyone on campus to view and vote for their favorite spicy chalet, with one student receiving bragging rights for assembling the best house. 

“All the students are doing a tremendous job applying their culinary skills and I can’t wait to see their finished projects,” the chef said.