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Chef creates gingerbread resort replica

| Sunday, Dec. 29, 2002

What does it take to construct a gingerbread village resembling Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa?

According to Richard Carpenter, Nemacolin's pastry chef, 150 pounds of sugar, 50 pounds of flour and 140 eggs, among a long list of other ingredients.

"Every year, Nemacolin does some different Christmas culinary delight. Last year, the gingerbread house was life-size. I wanted to replicate the resort and surrounding Laurel Highlands region," said Carpenter, whose responsibilities as pastry chef include managing the pastry department, creating and updating menus, and developing recipes.

In the process of the village's planning and construction, Carpenter said that he learned much about the area.

"I moved to Fayette County in the fall and started at Nemacolin in October. By incorporating so much of the area into the village, I was able to learn some history about the region also," Carpenter said.

Carpenter and his team of eight began planning the construction of the gingerbread village at the end of October.

"The engineering department at the resort also played a big role in helping us with the construction of the bases and mountains," Carpenter said.

Once the pieces to the gingerbread village were completed, it was set up in Nemacolin's ballroom, hidden from the public.

Then like elves in the night, Carpenter and his team quickly and quietly moved the village to the lobby at the Chateau LaFayette.

Set-up took four hours.

"We worked at night when the least amount of people would be at the Chateau. It was a big surprise in the morning for the staff and guests of the Chateau,"Carpenter said

"The response to the village has been a very positive one. People are also really interested once they realize it's a replication of the resort property and outlying area," said Susan McCarthy, he resort's public relations director.

"I wanted to create something that would have a real community appeal," Carpenter said. "I already have visions of next year's creation — a 12- to 15-foot white chocolate Christmas tree with sugar presents underneath."

Carpenter, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has more than 15 years of experience as a pastry chef and has constructed approximately 100 gingerbread houses and villages through the years.

In 1986, while Carpenter was the pastry chef at the Buena Vista Palace in Walt Disney World, he built what was at the time the world's largest gingerbread village for the Guinness Book of World Records.

"I have always worked on gingerbread houses and villages every Christmas. I also do one with my family. Children are always so intrigued by the magic of the gingerbread house," the chef said.

The gingerbread village will be on display at the Chateau LaFayette through Jan. 3.

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