Gingerbread madness greets guests

PO‘IPU — Chef Martina Hilldorfer thinks it’s the largest one in the state.

Hilldorfer, a former chef at the Sheraton Kaua‘i and an instructor at the Kaua‘i Community College culinary arts department, was on hand with seven of her students at the Sheraton Kaua‘i yesterday where a large gingerbread house took shape in the hotel’s lobby.

“I think it’s the biggest one in the state,” Hilldorfer said while pacing off the dimensions of the structure. “It’s about 12 feet tall by 10 feet wide and about 15 feet long.”

Hilldorfer’s students worked alongside Sheraton Kaua‘i Executive Chef Shoji Namatame, who has a reputation for creating unique and exotic culinary pieces in tune with seasonal celebrations.

Namatame was high atop a folding ladder armed with an improvised ladle from which icing poured onto the roof to simulate melted snow. He topped the pour by tossing handfuls of M&Ms to pepper the roofscape.

This is the second year the large gingerbread house has sprouted in the resort’s lobby, and its appearance was definitely a show-stopper as guests stopped to watch the students and the resort’s culinary staff work on the creation.

After conferring with Marcial Geronimo, the resort’s pastry chef, Hilldorfer said the structure will involve about 170 man-hours to complete, not counting the baking of various components of the gingerbread house.

“That took about 120 hours,” Geronimo said, pausing to score a pan of gingerbread for Namatame to set on the house’s door.

Additionally, Hilldorfer said the construction of the gingerbread house called for 250 sheet pans of gingerbread and 600 pounds of icing, which serves as the glue for the gingerbread.

To make the 250 sheets, Hilldorfer and Geronimo estimated that 200 pounds of flour, 300 eggs and 20 pounds each of cinnamon, ginger and cloves were used.

“And 2,478 pieces of candy,” Hilldorfer said. “I don’t really know the exact count, but that sounds like a good number.”

Cases of assorted candies surrounded the construction area — bags of M&Ms, Gummi Bears, licorice and candy canes in the familiar red-and-white patterns.

The construction process was not without its problems, though. Chef Martina briefly peppered a cell phone with M&M candy while singing, “On the first day of Christmas, my chef gave to me…” The phone, however, took a plunge into some icing that had accumulated on the drip cloth, much to the dismay of its student owner.

Little hiccups like that were overcome, though, by the smell and feel of the holidays, which filled the lobby of the Po‘ipu resort. Youngsters were attracted by the crew of KCC students busy segregating M&M candies for artist Greecean Manuel, another KCC student.

“She entered a gingerbread house in the ResortQuest contest,” Hilldorfer said. “Now all she has to do is wait to see if it wins.”

Angela Vento, the hotel’s general manager, was among those who passed through the lobby and stopped to watch, joining the flow of guests who had their personal gingerbread house memories and tales.

Once complete, the gingerbread house will be a centerpiece for the resort’s holiday schedule of events topped by its Christmas Eve Buffet and the Christmas Day Dinner Buffet.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or


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