Two talented Four Seasons pastry chefs and their hardworking teams have created some of the most dazzling gingerbread structures ever.
In Turkey, two linked properties—Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanhamet and Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus—have a stupendous display. Boasting swooping chocolate swirls, the whimsical magical village was painstakingly assembled between 2 and 5 am. “We surprised all our guests and visitors by working quietly overnight…and transporting all the elements in the elevators was challenging!” says Executive Pastry Chef Ghislain Gaille.
Naturally, the work begins long before that. “I drafted individual houses. Based on the drawings, I divided the work into separate pieces needed to complete the draft, in terms of size, quantity and colour schemes,” he says. “It’s important that I know the location of the space used to display my art, in order to prepare for the height, size surface and colours to go with surroundings.” A team of five worked on the baking, decorating and assembling. Chef Ghislain also enjoys seeing the work of his colleagues around the world.
“In my eyes, each pastry chef has his or her own style that is incorporated into a traditional or creatively different gingerbread display.” And yes, he has come a long way over the years: “I made my very first gingerbread house without any experience in 1995 using 1,110 lb (500 kg) of icing….”
In the English countryside, Rosanna Lombardozzi, head pastry chef at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, drew inspiration close to home and created a sweet replica of the hotel itself, a historic Georgian manor. “I only have to look around me at the beautiful grounds and building that I work in to be inspired!” she says.
After measuring, sketching and creating paper templates, Chef Rosanna built the house with two other members of her team over four days. “This year we created Christmas trees out of macaroons and snowmen out of meringue. The snowman also had their own scarves and carrot noses piped on by hand,” she says. The back of the house is made to look like a postcard which says “Greetings from Hampshire,” complete with a large stamp made out of biscuit and topped with printed, edible rice paper. “Unfortunately this snapped in half whilst we were making it, but hopefully no one has noticed as we’ve pieced it back together pretty well!” she laughs.
Laughter is a crucial part of the process, of course. Have fun and enjoy yourself, and put on some Christmas music, is her advice for home bakers. Next up: “Next year I’d love to try to recreate the whole Estate, rather than just the manor house. Think gingerbread walled garden and stables…and of course, people always want to see our hotel dog, Oliver, featured in everything!”
Ooh and ahh over other Four Seasons gingerbread creations from around the world on the Four Seasons Facebook page.