Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services
Lanier Village Estates Gainesville, Ga.
Born In: Rochester, N.Y.
Lives In: Lawrenceville, Ga.
Married to Christine, a teacher’s assistant. Three children: Nathan, 24, Katie, 21, and Lindsay, 17.
Dave McTigue, director of culinary and nutrition services at 500-resident Lanier Village Estates, a CCRC in Gainesville, Ga., makes a giant gingerbread house, which can reach up to 30 inches in height, every Christmas for the residents. McTigue says the best thing about making gingerbread houses is the allure of their sweet smell, but he says the weather can be a major factor in making these delectable houses.
“The first time I saw a giant gingerbread house I was doing my apprenticeship at the Hyatt Hotel in Richmond, Va. The banquet chef was a big German guy. In Germany, gingerbread houses are more of a tradition. I had never seen one so I asked if I could help. I hung around after my shift and worked on the house with him.
I make the houses only at Christmastime. When I’m thinking of a house, the county scene appeals to me more than a city scene. The gingerbread houses stand pretty high. They are about 27 or 30 inches high. I put electricity in them so there are little lights. I do two stories and I put furniture in the houses. There will be a fireplace made out of ginger- bread with gingerbread logs. We’ll make a gingerbread stove and a table with chairs. There are gingerbread steps going upstairs. There is a Christmas tree made out of an ice cream cone. I try to do almost everything edible; the lights, of course, aren’t.
When I build a house the windows are cut out so you can look inside. When you peek in and see all the little gingerbread stuff, it looks really neat. On the top floor I might do a gingerbread bed with fluffy icing, nightstands with lights and a Christmas tree. The outside is decorated with different colored icing. I put snow on the roof. I’ve used cookies, candies and icing for the shingles on the roof.
I usually put the house on a Styrofoam base that is six feet by three feet. There is a place in town that makes Styrofoam so they will make me a piece that is 24 inches high, and then I can cut it down using some of my ice-carving tools to shape the Styrofoam to make channels for streams or hills. I’ll put a road in that is paved with gingerbread bricks. I’ll put a fence around the farmhouse and a porch on the house with candy canes to hold it up. I’ll stack ice cream cones around the yard at different heights for the trees.
Two years ago, where the stream came to an end, I had a chocolate fountain and we had little marshmallows on skewers so residents or guests could take a marshmallow and dip it in the chocolate. It was an interactive gingerbread house. We make them for the residents to enjoy. I’ve done my share at home, but now that my youngest is 17 we’re not doing gingerbread houses at home anymore.
I started making these in Virginia. I moved to Orlando and the climate is different. The first year I wasn’t used to the humidity. When you bake the gingerbread it is really hard. When it sits out for a length of time, it starts absorbing moisture. I didn’t realize it was doing that and it collapsed. You build one wall at a time, so the collapse came early in the process and I was able to adjust the recipe.
It seems like every year is my favorite. One of the first ones I did that I really liked was a stone house mansion. Once I did a big house with 16 little houses. I built a ski slope with skiers coming down. The whole culinary staff gets involved.
The neatest thing about a gingerbread house is the smell. When you get close to it, the smell of all the sugars and flavors brings you right to it.”