Music and laughter filter from a room at the end of a long hallway of a Victoria seniors residence. Inside the small space, two women in Christmas aprons chatter over sheets of gingerbread shapes and royal icing.
The pair fill other roles the rest of the year at Revera Living’s Parkwood Place, Cheryl Chalifour as executive director and Margie Edwards as director of administrative services. But, for a few weeks each year, they turn pastry chef and drag along any other coworker who might be interested.
They even bring residents along for the ride Chalifour said, making gingerbread houses with students from a local elementary school. For Chalifour, the annual foray into creating an entry for the annual Gingerbread Showcase means a return to her roots.
More than two decades ago she worked as a pastry chef and brings her decorating knowledge and skills to the build. Her first contest was years ago when her husband worked as a chef at The Prestige in Sooke. She crafted a giant house – solo. Set to go on display for about a month or so, if she recalls correctly, it only lasted half that time before suffering a catastrophic roof collapse.
“I really learned from that how to build a gingerbread house that lasts for two months,” she says with a laugh.
This year’s build, around the issued theme of ‘magical’, is titled Santa’s Magical Workshop. An elf housing tower with flag will hopefully get them to the required 45-centimetre height. Chalifour crafts cookie shelves for the workshop and a pink bakery is ready for assembly. Edwards floods star-shaped cookies in preparation for building a sweet Christmas tree.
Open to home chefs and professionals, the competition requires all components be edible.
Now in its 14th year, the showcase is the premier fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity Victoria, raising$536,769 to date, to build affordable housing in partnership with local families, says Jenessa Mattson, manager of marketing and communications.
“We build strength, stability and independence through affordable home ownership for local families,” Mattson says.
Founded in 1990, Habitat Victoria has built 34 homes and served 38 local families. While creating is a blast, the opportunities Habitat provides are part of the reason Chalifour and Edwards work so hard each winter.
“It’s what makes me who I am, to help others, Habitat for Humanity not only aligns with my own values but also with Revera’s values,” Chalifour said.
Edwards has personally seen what Habitat provides for families, as a friend was able to partner on a home. “She never would have been able to get a house otherwise,” Edwards says. “People need a leg up and Habitat for Humanity is great for giving those people that leg up and that opportunity they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.”
This year the competition boasts 26 entrants up for awards such as Best First Impression, Best Use of Skill and Technique and Best Interpretation of the Theme, an award Revera won last year, along with the People’s Choice Award, selected by viewers who buy ballots to vote. Other awards are determined by a panel of judges based on first impression, use of gingerbread, diversity of ingredients, interpretation of the theme, structural integrity, skill and technique, overall concept and artistic merit.
The showcase runs Nov. 26 through Jan. 2, 2023, at the Parkside Hotel and Spa.
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