An Annual Tradition Returns: KCPS Culinary Arts Students Build Gingerbread Village
Northeast High School senior Samuel Cuong has spent hours decorating the roof of his gingerbread house with sugared candies, Skittles and Tootsie Roll Pops.
“I got this idea from a picture online, but it’s not exactly the same. I’ve created some of my ideas on it, like these doors,” Samuel said, pointing out graham cracker French doors on a gingerbread balcony.
The project is a favorite of Chef Dan Hogan, who teaches the Culinary Arts classes at Manual Career & Technical Center.
“Every year we do this. We love it. The kids love it. It’s a great way to end the semester. The students have an opportunity to truly express themselves and their talent,” Hogan said. “They have free rein to be as creative as they want to be.”
The students do it all, he said. They bake, measure and cut the gingerbread. They whip the icing. They build trees out of popcorn — or gumdrops. This year, there’s even a gingerbread Eiffel Tower.
Senior Jabari Walker stood at the stove, melting isomalt for his team’s gingerbread log cabin.
“So if you were to boil down sugar and get the liquid, this is like that, but it’s better for decorating,” Jabari explained, carefully checking the temperature with a candy thermometer. “We’re going to use ours to make a lake, an ice skating rink.”
Jabari is a senior at Allen Village, a charter school sponsored by KCPS. Students at charter schools that partner with KCPS can take Career and Technical Education classes at Manual.
Hogan said he tries to teach students real world lessons as they’re learning to cook. He emphasizes attendance and punctuality, skills students will need regardless of whether they end up in the restaurant industry.
“You don’t have to want to be a chef one day. What we teach is something you can use for the rest of your life. At some point, we’re all going to be independent. We’re all going to have to be able to cook to feed ourselves and our families.”