Edible castle on display in Vail | VailDaily.com

Edible castle on display in Vail

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL gingerbread chateau KA 12-17-08

VAIL, Colorado ” With a gold-encrusted dome, the two-story French chateau at 20 Vail Road is prime real estate.

Architects have just one request: Don’t eat it.

Made from 15 pounds of gingerbread, 40 pounds of sugar paste and 30 pounds of marzipan, the chateau is on display at the Swiss Chalet Restaurant. Everything on the 3-foot-tall castle is edible, including the windows (they’re made from gelatin leaves) and the butter cookie trees.

The gingerbread castle is the work of Swiss Chalet chef Bernie Oswald and his friend, Edwards resident Brian Williams.

Oswald said he learned how to make gingerbread houses growing up in Austria.

“My grandmom started me on that stuff when I was, like, 5,” said Oswald, 33. “She owned a restaurant, so it was tradition then every year to make one. I even made gingerbread houses when I lived in the Caribbean. It was difficult because of the moisture.”

This year’s masterpiece has been a long time in the making. Oswald and Williams started working on the French castle in mid-August at Oswald’s Edwards home. They finished it just before Thanksgiving.

Made from $500 worth of groceries, the chateau is so large, it barely fit in Williams’ SUV. The men had to wait until the castle arrived at the Swiss Chalet to affix the golden elf to the top.

A French history buff, Oswald said he was drawn to French architecture this year.

“It all started with a dome,” Williams said, gesturing to Oswald. “He wanted to do a dome.”

“I watched Marie Antoinette, the movie with Kirsten Dunst. Have you seen it? I don’t know why. I figure it fit in with the dome,” Oswald said.

The men have broken ground on gingerbread projects before. In past years, they made a traditional gingerbread house, Caribbean-themed home with palm trees, a dollhouse, a Colorado mining town and an Austrian chalet.

In fact, the men have won a gingerbread-house-building competition each winter for the past five years. They took home a $1,000 prize each year.

This winter, the bakers did not enter their French chateau in the competition, which took place the day after Thanksgiving at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

“After five years in a row, we felt it was time …” Williams said.

“To retire,” Oswald finished.

The woman who organizes the Beaver Creek gingerbread competition hopes to coax Oswald and Williams out of retirement for next year’s contest.

“They put a lot of effort into the homes they create and they’re just beautiful creations and they’re real artists,” said Kathy Reed, executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Continental Divide in Dillon.

CASA provides abused or neglected children who appear in court with advocates. Funds from the annual gingerbread competition flow to the organization.

This year, six bakers entered the professional division of the gingerbread competition. Marcia Kramer Hone and Bernard Schrag took home first prize for their snow-covered chalet.

Although Oswald’s French castle did not take home a prize, it has been attracting admirers off the streets of Vail. The castle has been on display at the Swiss Chalet through Christmas. Oswald said he expects to take the castle down in early January.

So do the bakers plan to eat their masterpiece?

Not a chance.

“If it’s maintained properly, it will last for years,” Oswald said. “Especially in a dry climate. I think we’ll leave it here in the hotel and put it up again next year.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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