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Queens Chronicle

Gingerbread town: sweet treat for kids

Brooklyn chef cooks up unique holiday village at Hall of Science

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:37 am, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

The aroma of cinnamon, ginger and candy hangs in the air at the NY Hall of Science as the museum unveils a special gingerbread village on display now through the holidays.

Although the 19- by 14-foot creation went on display Sunday, its creator, Jon Lovitch, expected to put the final finishing touches on by Tuesday. Taking time out from those preparations on Monday, Lovitch said his work was a labor of love.

“This is my 20th season making the gingerbread villages,” he said. “I don’t use a template and want it to look like something anybody could make.”

It takes the chef almost a year to create all 160 structures for the display, which he does in his off hours from his regular job as a chef at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.

Aside from the 152 gingerbread houses, the display includes a large hotel, four gingerbread cable cars, five train cars, an underground candy subway station, a clock tower, a carousel and much more.

There is even a behind-the-scenes window showing the process of making a building. The trees, lampposts and two-foot-high nutcrackers are made of many layers of royal icing. The icing is the glue and mortar holding the gingerbread and candy together.

Candy lovers will be amazed at the variety of sweets used in the display. Lovitch also used different colored chewing gum to create bricks. For his brownstones, the chef imported coffee-flavored gum from Korea.

The creator estimates it took 1,500 hours of labor. He tallied 2,240 pounds of icing, 400 pounds of candy and 500 pounds of gingerbread dough.

He is also hoping to set a record with the “Guinness World Record.” He’ll find out soon if he made it.

Lovitch’s GingerBread Lane project is funded entirely by him and on Jan. 12, when it closes, he will give the buildings away on a first-come, first-served basis. “People can take two home with them but I would not recommend eating them,” he said.

It is possible to preserve the gingerbread and Lovitch says the best way is to reinforce loose pieces with royal icing, made from powdered sugar and water. Then spray it with 10 layers of shellac. “It will last forever,” he said.

A native of Missouri, Lovitch most recently worked in Pittsburgh, moving to New York City earlier this year. He said other contenders for the display were Grand Central Station and the New York Botanical Garden, but that the Hall of Science, located in Flushing Meadows Park, offered the ideal setting for him. “Most of those other places only have visitors on the weekend, but here it’s all week long.”

He’s already thinking about what next year’s village will look like and has found a new candy to use: a gummy candy corn.

Children will be able to make their own gingerbread creations at workshops on Dec. 7 and 28. Lovitch will be there to help. It’s free with museum admission.

The display will be on view Tuesdays to Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will be closed on Christmas day. Museum admission is $11 for adults; $8 for children, students and seniors

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