Gingerbread house takes shape in Sheraton lobby

PO’IPU — While visitors loved the idea, the eight students from the Kaua’i Community College culinary- arts program felt like the task would never end.

Under the guidance of Sheraton Kauai Resort Executive Chef Shoji Namatame, a gingerbread house measuring eight feet wide by 10 feet high was slowly materializing in the lobby of the Po’ipu resort.

“He got the idea from when he was in Guam,” said Richard Cariaga, one of the KCC culinary-arts students, about Namatame’s blueprints for a lifesized gingerbread house.

“And, when he was in different parts of the country, he would build houses there. I think this is the biggest in the state,” Cariaga added.

Meanwhile, passing visitors thought the idea was marvelous, as one stopped to nibble at bits of gingerbread that littered a preparation table similar to those used when constructing a house of wood.

“It’s come a long way since I saw it yesterday,” the visitor commented.

Members of one family paused to see if the pieces were really edible, and a KCC student quickly “buttered” some gingerbread slabs and offered them to the youngsters, who lost little time before nibbling at the offerings.

Denise Wardlow, the hotel’s director of operations, stopped by and offered to get some paint brushes for Namatame while watching the students work on the project.

Namatame explained that the house is taking shape in a “protected” area of the lobby because wind and humidity are the prime culprits that could lead to deterioration of the icing that holds the construction together.

To combat the humidity nemesis, Namatame had the students “paint” the attached panels with watered-down icing, a task that really brought out the parallel to constructing a wooden home, as the watered-down icing splattered down on the protective drop cloths as paint would off a wooden home.

Gingerbread panels are attached to a plywood backing, and the construction is complete with a door that was getting the gingerbread treatment as Cariaga applied icing using carpentry tools to create a layer of “cement” to hold the gingerbread panels.

To create the oversized holiday piece, Namatame said he used 200 pounds of flour and 200 pounds of honey. Ward-low said he created about 250 sheets of gingerbread for the project.

“No, almost 300 sheets,” Namatame corrected her, adding that the construction of the gingerbread sheets alone took almost 10 days.

Additionally, Namatame said he was nursing a backache he got while crouched between the rooftop of the gingerbread house and the ceiling of the hotel lobby.

The installation of the roof took almost one whole day last week, a feat the visitor had observed.

Red licorice by the case, candy canes by the cases, and M&M candies by the cases, were ordered, to help complete the colorful construction project.

“Come back tomorrow, it’ll look different,” Namatame offered. “It changes every day.”

“This is our manager’s house,” Ward-low joked, to which Namatame quickly added, “You can buy it for three easy payments.”

“I will never forget this project,” moaned Jamie Padre, one of the KCC students, as the clock ticked closer to lunch hour, and Todd Oldham, the resort’s director of food and beverage, came to check on the students.

“I’m going to be dreaming about this for the next two or three weeks,” Old-ham said.

“I want you to know that this is our last day of school, and we’re devoting it to this,” said Kolomana Basconcillo while toying with ideas on how to apply the pieces of M&M candies that still needed to be put on the house.

Mel Bacio was supervising the eight students while instructor Martina Hildorfer went back to the Puhi campus to check on other students.

But, on her return, it was time for lunch, as the students offered no argument to instructors calling for the break.

Students participating in the project included Kimberlee Badua, Cariaga, Jasmine Quibilan, Shanelle Jamorabon, Edward Daligcon, Padre, Basconcillo, and Marcus Punzal.

The lighting of the resort’s Christmas tree and gingerbread house are set for this Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m., with live entertainment from young singers from Ni’ihau, eggnog and cookies, and more. It is free and open to the public.

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