Egg Harbor Township chef creates larger-than-life gingerbread house for a little holiday magic

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Laura Stester/Club manager Lori Burk and Executive Chef John Manzione explain take a moment from the work to explain the project. Laura Stester/Club manager Lori Burk and Executive Chef John Manzione explain take a moment from the work to explain the project.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Some things in life are better the bigger they are, and John Manzione, the executive chef at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, decided that the holidays were the perfect time to up the ante.

“Having a baby changed the way I look at the world,” said Manzione of his 11-month old son Jonathan Phillip. He also has a 10 year-old stepdaughter with his wife Amy.

 For their kids’ benefit as well as for the enjoyment of the members of the club’s recently created Creek Kids Club, the chef dreamed up a larger-than-real-life gingerbread house which would be ready in time for the club’s annual breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Hidden Creek’s membership has changed over the years, from older members to more families, he said, and the breakfast with Santa event is always a big hit.

Submitted/The frame is complete after 3 to 4 days of careful construction. Submitted/The frame is complete after 3 to 4 days of careful construction.

Manzione’s design called for a structure that was 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 4 feet long. It had to hold up 73 square feet of gingerbread and more than 100 pounds of royal icing, so in-house carpenter John Mazzaocca was called to build the frame, Manzione said.

“It took him about three to four days to build it,” he said. “And then our bakers took a full day, eight hours, baking the gingerbread. The icing took about 6 hours to make, and it will take me about 8-10 hours putting it all on.”

 The gingerbread was broken up in pieces resembling stones and affixed to the house with the icing acting as mortar. Manzione said he planned to cover the roof with icing and then crush up shredded wheat cereal to resemble a thatched roof as a finishing touch.

  Laura Stetser/More than 75 square feet of gingerbread and 100 pounds of royal icing are needed to cover the walls of the house. Laura Stetser/More than 75 square feet of gingerbread and 100 pounds of royal icing are needed to cover the walls of the house. About 40 children were expected at the breakfast, he said, during which they would have an activity station where they would adorn gingerbread men, which Manzione will use to decorate the house.

 The project was so exciting for the club, that the big man himself was relocated to place focus on the gingerbread house.

“Santa normally sits next to the fireplace when he comes, but we’ve moved him next to the gingerbread house this year,” Manzione said with a laugh.

 The club’s grownup members will be able to enjoy the house this week as well when they come in for the club’s annual tree trimming party before which Manzione will dress it up with lights.

Submitted/Reilly Family of Ocean County enjoy a visit with Santa and the chef during the Saturday, Dec. 7 event at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township. Pictured from left are Tara, Santa Claus, Jeffery, Mary Kate, Paul, Hidden Creek’s Executive Chef John Manzione, Samantha and Jeff. Submitted/Reilly Family of Ocean County enjoy a visit with Santa and the chef during the Saturday, Dec. 7 event at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township. Pictured from left are Tara, Santa Claus, Jeffery, Mary Kate, Paul, Hidden Creek’s Executive Chef John Manzione, Samantha and Jeff.

Submitted/The finished gingerbread house is ready for the kids at the Hidden Creek Golf Club’s annual breakfast with Santa. Submitted/The finished gingerbread house is ready for the kids at the Hidden Creek Golf Club’s annual breakfast with Santa.


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