My friend Stella, age two and a half, was a little intimidated. She came to Stein Eriksen Lodge for a gingerbread adventure. To tell you the truth, I was there for the exact same reason. I met her and her Nana in the lobby to check out the huge Whoville gingerbread creation and to participate in the gingerbread house making class to bring one home to my family.
When we walked in the room, we noticed lots of kids, moms and aunties all eager to play with the cake, candies and icing. In front of each chair were gingerbread walls and a roof as well as bags of candy for decoration. Stella sat down in her chair and Executive Chef Zane Holmquist greeted her with a big smile and asked her how old she was. She looked up at the chef in the Santa hat, and around the room at the pastry chefs and the other kids and suddenly was unsure of herself. She was not even three years old so when all this attention was focused on her, her lips started to quiver like she was just on the cusp of starting to cry.
Chef knew just what to do. He gently sat down next to her and started to work on the base of her gingerbread house. He asked her to put her finger on top of the wall to hold it while he set another in place. She did comply but with a little apprehension. Once the walls were up and roof on, he did something I found very interesting. He let her lead. He simply asked her to point to where she wanted him to place the candy to decorate her house. She didn’t have to talk: it wasn’t a complex transaction. She just needed to point.
And point she did. When she pointed to the side of the house, he placed a candy in that exact spot and she was hooked! This lasted until the house had a candy corn hedge against the frame, snowmen candies adorning the house and ribbon candy shingles on the roof. He didn’t miss a beat when she wanted him to double stack candy on candy. The head chef from this Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond hotel sat with this tiny girl and helped her build the house just the way she wanted to.
When they were done, and he went on to help the next child, she was beaming. She talked a mile a minute to everyone and literally danced around the room. When she got home, she talked non-stop about her gingerbread adventure as she proudly showed off her creation.
It took Chef Zane and a team of a dozen pastry chefs three months to build the Whoville gingerbread house which decorates the lobby of the Stein Eriksen Lodge. It is complete with the Grinch’s mountain hideaway (the Grinch with his little dog looking on) and dozens of marzipan Whoville figures surrounding Christmas tree in the center of their town. It only took him a half an hour to win over a little girl who will now be a lifelong gingerbread house fan.