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Gingerbread house brings ‘magic’ to The Ritz

Gingerbread house brings ‘magic’ to The Ritz

Before most of the hotel’s guests were even awake, The Ritz-Carlton’s executive pastry chef, Sebastien Thieffine, arrived at the beach resort at 4 a.m. and got to work assembling a life-size gingerbread house in the lobby.

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For decades, the gingerbread house has been an annual holiday tradition at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Over the course of Saturday, Thieffine and 10 to 12 members of the hotel’s pastry team worked to put together the 12 foot tall structure, decorating it with up to 120,000 pieces of candy.

“It’s magic, you know?” Thieffine said. “This is one of the big holiday sights to see.”

The pastry team began baking the gingerbread in the offseason, using roughly 2,000 pounds of dough, Thieffine said. Late Friday night, a team of carpenters arrived to erect the structure of the gingerbread house, the only part that is nonperishable.

The house measures 13 feet by 13 feet, designed in the style of a Swiss chalet. On Saturday morning, the pastry team used a special icing to paste 40 types of candies to the sides, working with extra care to adhere a trim of dinner rolls to the edges.

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The gingerbread house will be on display until the first week of January.

“Thousands and thousands of people come to see it, wanting their picture by it,” Thieffine said.

After the holiday season, the house gets disassembled. For health reasons, the pieces get thrown away.

“It’s been outside for six weeks by then,” Thieffine said.

As the gingerbread house went from idea to reality Saturday, the hotel’s guests stopped to marvel at the cottage, snapping photos and letting their children linger in the lobby. Even after eight years at the Ritz, Thieffine still gets noticeably excited at the prospect of building something that will be treasured in families’ memories and photos for years.

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“It’s a beautiful holiday tradition,” he said.