Tableside With Megan Ketover

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It’s a sweet sight to see: Carew Tower, Roebling Suspension Bridge, and Paul Brown Stadium all decked out in technicolor candies and piped icing. A holiday tradition since 2003, the gingerbread village in the lobby of the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza demands 120 pounds of powdered sugar, 15 pounds of gumdrops, and hours of Orchids pastry chef Megan Ketover’s time.

How do you get a five-and-a-half foot tall gingerbread building to stay standing? The buildings are designed by Mike Davis, one of the hotel engineers. He looks at plans of the building then builds a wooden base for each before they are turned over to the pastry department.

Do you have a lot of help? About five of us tackle the project a week or two before Thanksgiving. I bribe my assistants with cookies and candy to give them energy and keep them going.

How long does it take to build? We don’t build completely from scratch every year. If the cookies are still intact, we start fresh with some of the icing and candies.

Wait, so there are gingerbread structures that have been around since 2003? There are. In the past couple of years we’ve been rehabbing some of the buildings. This year we’ll restore the Procter & Gamble building and Carew Tower.

That’s some serious gingerbread. What’s your secret recipe? For building, I’ve completely modified my recipe so there’s little fat and an increased amount of corn syrup to yield a much harder, stronger texture.

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