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November 26, 2013

Royal gingerbread house is Santa’s workshop

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

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Royal Park Hotel executive pastry chef Mark Slessor greets guests viewing the hotel’s life-size gingerbread house Nov. 20.

ROCHESTER — This year, the life-sized gingerbread house filling the lobby of the Royal Park Hotel has been transformed into Santa’s workshop, complete with elfin helpers.

“We use the same wooden frame every year,” said Mark Slessor, Royal Park executive pastry chef. “We scrape it down and tear off all the old gingerbread. We make all new gingerbread shingles. We try to use real food as much as possible. I haven’t figured out how to avoid the wooden frame.”

Gumdrops, candy canes, sugar icicles, candied snowflakes, fondant and delicate icing details transform plain gingerbread into a treat for all ages. A team of 10 pastry chefs worked approximately 200 hours to construct the structure. “It takes about two months to get the whole thing done,” Slessor said.

“Every year, it seems it gets bigger,” said Jay Haratsis, Royal Park general manager. “And moves further down the hall.”

In partnership with the Salvation Army, the Royal Park Hotel supports the Red Kettle Campaign, selling gingerbread brick certificates. In addition, proceeds from the hotel’s dessert menu are donated to the Salvation Army. 

“You have outdone yourself again,” Maj. Mark Anderson, general secretary and metro Detroit area commander of the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, said to Royal Park officials during a gingerbread house ribbon-cutting Nov. 20.

“On behalf of families that are going to have a special time, this is fabulous,” Anderson said. “We see devastating need in Oakland County. Through your generosity, we are meeting that need. We want every child to experience Christmas.”

Last year, proceeds from the efforts generated by the Royal Park’s gingerbread house raised $17,000 for the Salvation Army. Those funds were “mostly used for food baskets and toys,” Anderson said. Visitors can purchase gingerbread bricks from the hotel’s front desk and receive a certificate of recognition for a $10 minimum donation.

“This is our fifth year at the Royal Park,” Anderson said. “It’s been a really good relationship.”

“This is a wonderful tradition in Rochester,” said Rochester Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Cuthbertson. “It strengthens our town.”

The gingerbread house will be on display at the Royal Park until Jan. 5. The Royal Park Hotel is located at 600 E. University Drive in downtown Rochester.

“We are an amazing community,” said Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority. “The Royal Park Hotel — you can’t imagine the support we get from them. They are a jewel in our community.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.