In October, the title of Pastry Chef of the Americas went in competition in Quito, Ecuador, to Stephan Schubert, the lanky, affable, German-born executive pastry chef at Lemay’s River City Casino & Hotel.
Just before Thanksgiving, Ladue News shared coffee with the chef at Lewey Nine’s Café in the casino to discuss his next triumph: the construction of a walk-in/dine-in gingerbread house for the holidays there.
How far in advance did you and your team start strategizing on this?
In the summertime, we start thinking about it, and then in about two months – like August, September – we have our first real meeting, I’d say, on how we want to execute it, what is going (to be) involved, what we have to order.
And for sure, there are other inputs. Facilities has to order the wood because it’s a wood structure, basically. Because people sit in there, it has to be safe. I know they’re starting right now, cutting everything and putting it up.
So it’s a long process, but it’s not like we’re meeting every day; it’s like once a month and then, toward the end, every other week.
What time and material do you foresee this involving?
The wood structure, it was like $1,000 or so only for wood. Labor hours, I have no idea. That’s sometimes hard to estimate…but that’s almost a weeklong process for them, to cut everything, to put it together, because it’s basically 9 feet wide and 11 feet long.
This time, we have a front porch basically on the thing. This year, we’re going a little bit more German-style, like old Swiss houses. So it will be pretty cool-looking.
Right now, we are in the process of producing like a thousand gingerbread shingles. And every year, we try to make the shingles a different design. We bake those ahead of time so we can glue them onto the wood structure.
And then we’re doing large cupcakes as decorations, and gumdrops. We also have 30 gingerbread men that are basically replicas of the people who work on the house. Each person decorates their own gingerbread man, the vision that he has for the gingerbread man.
What other specifics can you provide?
We try to have three days’ time to decorate it. Basically, we almost work eight hours a day, sometimes longer depending on what shift comes in and who has the time to decorate. We have three, four people working almost eight hours a day to decorate it.
We use icing to glue the shingles on – no artificial glue – and then the mortar around the shingles. And of course, you have “hiccups” because you have a vision, and it never works out that way.
How does it feel to go from Quito to this endeavor?
It’s a different adventure. Ecuador was a really unique experience…from missing the plane, the hotel room got given away, I didn’t have a hotel room, not getting my equipment.
This one, I have more people. I have 10 bakers that are supporting me, and I cannot stress enough, it’s their vision. They’re doing it. I’m only the “face” on it and giving them advice, how they have to go. It’s a different animal. It’s a challenge.
And it’s a different reward because you see the kids coming up. It’s more for the kids – and sometimes for older people that look like kids!