Two Montgomery County Community College's Pastry Arts students and one alumna gained a new appreciation for gingerbread – and possibly architecture – as they worked with Chef Julia Quay to build / bake a replica of one of Fairmount Park's most historic sites.
Thirteen historic sites were transformed into gingerbread creations for the third annual Fairmount Park Holiday Gingerbread House Display in November at the Shops at Liberty Place in Philadelphia.
'Each year, area bakeries are offered the chance to replicate, in gingerbread, one of these historic buildings,' explained Quay.
One of those sites, Laurel Hill Mansion, has a Montgomery County Community College connection. Emeritus Foundation Board member Alma Jacobs is executive director of the Women of Greater Philadelphia – the stewards of Laurel Hill Mansion.
Jacobs extended the invitation to Chef Francine Marz, director of MCCC's new Culinary Arts Institute (CAI). Marz, in turn, offered the project to Quay, an adjunct CAI instructor whose gingerbread portfolio includes a carousel and a replica of Rockefeller Center.
'A lucky opportunity for us – that Ms. Jacobs chose us to be her gingerbread architects for 2013!' exclaimed Quay.
She set to work building a cardboard model of the house that served as a stencil for the gingerbread pieces.
'We had two big design decisions to make – whether it should be a meticulous, down-to-the-doorknob replica of the building or fantasy piece,' explained Quay. 'We decided to include both approaches, leaving the front of the house a strict, to-the-letter representation of the mansion, with an open, doll-house style in back showcasing what a Christmas wedding might be like at Laurel Hill.'
Quay and her team – students Alana Filipovich and Joanne Ratteree and 2013 graduate Kimberly Spruill – began baking at her Philadelphia home in mid-October. From that point, the house took approximately three weeks to build and decorate.
'The students were involved in just about every aspect: baking the parts, applying the icing, cutting out the fence, making the Christmas tree, piping out all the little details, laying down snow and wrapping the board's edge in ribbon,' said Quay. 'I was impressed by how dedicated my team was to the project.'
Most importantly, the students and alumna had the opportunity to work with and learn from Quay, a seasoned culinary professional who graduated from Cornell University's hotel/restaurant program and who has worked at such prestigious establishments as the Four Seasons Hotel in New York and the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center. Quay and her husband also owned and operated their own bakery/cafe in Hamilton Township, N.J.
The Laurel Hill Mansion piece was originally on display from Nov. 4-11 as part of the Fairmount Park Holiday Gingerbread House Display in Philadelphia. However, when that display ended, the piece was moved to the Montgomery County Courthouse, where the public is invited to view the 18x30x30-inch house through early January.
MCCC's Culinary Arts Institute is also baking 50 dozen gingerbread men, women and angel cookies for Laurel Hill Mansion volunteers to sell during their annual Holiday Tour.
'It's a big project, but is one that teaches students organizational skills, planning and the coordination of labor and materials,' said Quay.
The two classes working on the cookies will have the opportunity to tour Laurel Hill Mansion later this month to see the results of their hard work first-hand.
To learn more about the Culinary Arts Institute at Montgomery County Community College, visit mc3.edu/culinary.