Chef Ralf Bauer
Take 50 sheets of homemade gingerbread, mix in 100 pounds of chocolate, add 180 gallons of icing and sprinkle on a generous helping of aloha, and what do you get?
Besides a sugar high that’ll last you through Labor Day, you get Chef Ralf’s Santa Claus Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani. For the past 15 years, Chef Ralf Bauer and helpers John Hightower (executive sous chef), Amie Tungpalan (pantry chef) and the hotel’s entire engineering department put in approximately 400 hours of volunteered time to put together a mouth-watering feast for the eyes.
“We cut bricks from gingerbread, and we put them one by one on there. One of these houses takes three months to do,” Bauer says of the medieval town-meets-Hawaii scene, complete with two running trains, musical carnival, skating rink and hundreds of figurines.
“I really wanted to make something special for the Princess Ka’iulani, and you know what, it is very special. I see people on the street in the summertime and they say, ‘Ah, you’re going to make the gingerbread village?’ It’s a lot of work for us, but that’s our reward, people really looking forward to it.”
The proof is in the details. From the clock tower on Kawaiaha’o Church to the rocking chairs at the Moana Surfrider, Bauer melds what is distinctly Hawaiian with winter images he remembers from his boyhood in Germany. In fact, the animated cable cars going up to Mount Isabelle (named for his 9-year-old daughter who built the house at the village’s peak) were a recent purchase he made on a trip back to Europe.
In addition to sharing his work with hotel guests, Bauer welcomes children from Oahu community centers and schools, including one for the deaf and blind, to take a stroll through this holiday wonderland.
“We give them a little demo, I tell them a story about Santa, and then they can have a hands-on thing, where they can touch the houses and make their own little houses. We really care about the kids; it’s an area that is close to my heart,” says Bauer, who also has a 15-month-old son named Logan. “We set this up here and we give something back to the community, that’s what we want to do. Hopefully people come to our hotel and get some Christmas spirit. That would be great.”
Eat up the sights (and literally smells) of Chef Ralf’s Santa Claus Gingerbread Village this holiday season in the lobby of the Princess Ka’iulani. Visitors also are invited to meet the chef at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.
The village will be up through the first week of January 2010. Call 922-5811 for additional information.
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