The atmosphere of Virginia Tech's West End Market is reminiscent of the scene in the popular holiday movie, “Elf,” when Buddy stays overnight in the department store to, quite literally, “deck the halls” in preparation for Santa’s arrival.
When students returned from Thanksgiving break, they found the popular dining center transformed "decked out" with holiday decorations--including a holiday masterpiece in the form of a gingerbread hotel created by several Dining Services staff members.
It will be on display in West End Market through Dec. 19.
The gingerbread hotel is modeled after Yellow Sulphur Springs, the historic inn and healing spa located in Montgomery County. The inn has existed since the 1700s, and the current standing hotel was built in 1810.
According to Yellow Sulphur Springs’ website, the property was popular among locals in the late 1700s, before the town of Blacksburg was even established. The cold mineral spring flows from a well on the property and is rich with magnesium, lithium, calcium, iron, and sulphur. Doctors would prescribe patients specific amounts of the “healing water” to supplement their diets.
With 225 pounds of royal icing, 162 pounds of gingerbread, and five pounds of candy, the West End gingerbread house weighs close to 400 pounds. It’s located near Bistro Firenze.
West End’s executive chef, Mark Bratton, came up with the idea this fall to build the gingerbread inn and developed a design plan alongside Stephen Garnett, assistant director of West End Market.
"One member helped make icing while others of us worked directly building the house," said Bratton. "Each gingerbread wall and window was measured and cut by hand. Then, it was placed on the frame with the royal icing.” Just the piping and candy decorations took over three days alone. One challenge with building a gingerbread house of this scale is drying time. Gravity has a way of letting us know when pieces can be added.”
Gail Seidemann of Floyd, Virginia, a senior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is a student assistant manager at West End Market and was involved in the gingerbread hotel’s construction.
“I got involved because I want to be a chef. Chef Mark [Bratton] has been an amazing teacher for me and invited me to build it with him because it’s an amazing learning experience, and I love cake decorating,” said Seidemann. “The house really brightens students’ day. You can always see crowds of people around it looking at the details and getting their picture taken with it. Everyone needs a little cheer to help them forget finals and look forward to the break.”Written by Holly Paulette.