Winners announced in Omni Grove Park Inn’s 31st annual National Gingerbread House Competition

Press release from Omni Grove Park Inn:

The Omni Grove Park Inn held its highly anticipated Annual National Gingerbread House Competition™, on Nov. 20, which included 200 entries from over 22 states and Guatemala. Contestants spanned across adult, teen, youth and children categories all competing for a chance to win a piece of more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

This year’s winners, the Difficult Dessert Devotees were a niece and aunt baking duo from North Carolina, and it was their third year competing and first time winning the competition. The furthest traveled competitor was Beatriz Mejia who traveled 4,234 miles from Guatemala to participate in this year’s competition.

The historic Asheville property brought back six honorable Chef Nicholas Lodge Awards, introduced last year and renamed in loving memory of former lead judge Chef Nicholas Lodge. Inspired from past entries and the creative elements that the competitors have introduced over the years, the awards included “Best Use of Color,” “Best Use of Sprinkles,” “Most Unique Ingredient,” “Pop Culture Star,” “Most Innovative Structure,” and “Longest Standing Competitor.” Additionally, back by popular demand, registered competitors had the opportunity to vote on their favorite design to determine the winner of the “People’s Choice: Best in Show Award.”

While each creation was required to be 75% gingerbread and 100% edible, this year’s panel of judges also evaluated each entry based on distinct criteria, including overall appearance, originality, creativity, difficulty, precision, and consistency of theme. This year, the competition welcomed new judge, celebrity cake artist, Yolanda Gampp; Gampp is known for serving as a judge on FOX’s Crime Scene Kitchen, being a two-time best-selling cookbook author, and the co-founder of “How to Cake It”, the #1 online baking education company in the world. The esteemed panel of returning judges also included lead judge Mark Seaman, culinary applications chef for Barry Callebaut; Geoff Blount, pastry chef and teacher; John Cook, executive pastry chef at The Omni Grove Park Inn; Steven Stellingwerf, pastry chef, author, and teacher; Aaron Morgan, executive pastry chef at the Stable Café on The Biltmore Estate, and Ashleigh Shanti, chef/owner of Good Hot Fish & 2020 James Beard finalist.

The 2023 winning entries in the categories of Adult, Teen, Youth, Child, and People’s Choice: Best in Show Award include:

Grand Prize Winner, Adult: Difficult Dessert Devotees, “Christmas at the Tongkonan” – Fuquay Varina, NC

Grand Prize Winner, Difficult Dessert Devotees. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

Adult Second Place: Pat Ashley Howard, “Moving Day” – Orlando, FL

Adult Third Place: Bonnie Hardiman, “Home Delivery” – Hagerstown, MD

Teen (ages 13-17) First Place: Courtland High School German Program, “Vintage Voyage” – Spotsylvania, VA

Teen Second Place: Toccoa Titans, “Grove’s Miracle Tonic” – Blue Ridge, GA

Teen Third Place: Emma Rhinehart, “An Elegant Christmas” – Columbia, TN

Teen First Place, Courtland High School German Program. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

Youth (ages 9-12) First Place: Frost Girls, “Fun in the Tub” – Woodbury, MN

Youth Second Place: Perry Reid, “Holiday Smackdown” – Travelers Rest, SC

Youth Third Place: The Fiddleheads, “Little Blue Truck’s Christmas” – Clyde, NC

Child (ages 5-8) First Place: Grace Webster, “The Night of Magical Memories” – Greenville, SC

Child Second Place: China Grove Cousins, “Ready, Set, SNOOOOWWWW!!!!” – Mooresville, NC

Child Third Place: Paul Frahler, “Bath Santa Takes Off!” – Greenville, SC

People’s Choice: Best in Show Award: Love at Frost Sight, “Rockin’ at the Diner” – Woodbury, MN

The 2023 winners across the six Chef Nicholas Lodge Awards include:

· Best Use of Color: Love at Frost Sight, “Rockin’ at the Diner” – Woodbury, MN
· Best Use of Sprinkles: Chloe Jennings, “Visions of Sugar Plums” – Purlear, NC

Youth First Place_Frost Girls. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

· Most Unique Ingredient: with use of Catgut Dental Sutures and Stevia Leaves, Difficult Dessert Devotees, “Christmas at Tongkonan” – Fuquay Varina, NC
· Most Innovative Structure: Andrea Watson, “Yo-Ho-Ho-Ho – Simpsonville, SC
· Pop Culture Star: Shelby Pechtel, “Groot’s First Christmas” – Troutman, NC
· Longest Standing Competitor: Merry Spafford, “A Classical Christmas Carol” – Loudon, TN

The 2023 winner for the participant who traveled the furthest:

· Furthest Traveled Competitor: Beatriz Mejia, “Barrel Organ” – Guatemala

Child Top Ten, Grace Webster. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

This famous competition began in 1992 with a small group of community members who were passionate about building gingerbread houses and has since evolved into one of the most competitive holiday events in the country. The historic property is celebrating the 31st Annual National Gingerbread House Competition through additional programming this year, including:

· 2023 Gingerbread Display: From Monday, November 27, 2023 – Tuesday, January 2, 2024, the property will spotlight all submissions on display throughout its public spaces. The Gingerbread Display is available for resort guests to view 24/7 and to non-resort guests Monday – Thursday

Love at Frost Sight, Rockin at the Diner. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

anytime and Sundays after 4 p.m., excluding holidays (December 23-25, 30-31 and January 1).

· The Great Gingerbread House: On display in the Great Hall, guests can visit the life-sized gingerbread house modeled after the historic hotel, while enjoying house-made hot chocolate, a specialty craft brew in partnership with Highland Brewing and sweet treats by the glow of the iconic fireplaces. Guests can experience holiday cheer at every corner with over 80 illuminated trees displayed throughout the resort.

· Gingerbread Holiday Package: For stays booked November 22 – December 30, 2023, the property welcomes gingerbread lovers to indulge in its exclusive Gingerbread Holiday Package which includes deluxe accommodations, a complimentary holiday gingerbread cookie, daily breakfast at farm-to-table artisanal buffet restaurant The Blue Ridge, and overnight valet w/ garage parking.

· 12 Days of Gingerbread: To spark further Ginger-innovation and provide a virtual option to check out the coveted competition, the hotel will continue “The 12 Days of Gingerbread” on its official Facebook (@omnigroveparkinn) and Instagram (@omnigrovepark) channels by featuring one of the Top 12 finalists each day from December 1 – 12, 2023.

· Fall & Holiday Parking Program: From October 1, 2023 – January 2, 2024 the resort donates a portion of its parking proceeds to the community in support of local nonprofit organizations in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Since the program’s inception in 2013, the hotel has contributed more than $923,000 to these charitable partners; the donation total will be announced in February 2024 and is expected to surpass $1 million.

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