When John Quinn was a child, his parents brought him to D.C. to see the museums and monuments -- a trip taken by millions of families annually. But what he remembers most about that vacation was playing on the lawn of the Washington Monument and looking up in awe at the sheer size of the structure.
Unfortunately the Quinn family was not able to take a tour of the monument that day, and when he moved to D.C. years later to become the Ritz Carlton, Washington D.C.'s Executive Pastry Chef, he vowed to make it to the top of the monument. But a demanding work schedule and other time commitments led Quinn to keep putting off the tour for a later date. So imagine Quinn's disappointment when he learned the Washington Monument would be closed to tours indefinitely.
"I realized that in order to allow our guests to see what I myself have missed, I would have to recreate the monument here in the hotel," said Quinn.
1,000 hours of planning, three weeks of construction, 26 people, 900 pounds of icing, 600 pounds of white gingerbread sugar dough and 251 layers of stacked gingerbread stones later, Quinn and his team have successfully built a 30-foot gingerbread replica of the Washington Monument. The base is secured on the lower level of the hotel, while the rest of the structure spans up 30 feet through the grand staircase, with the pointed top of the obelisk-shaped structure coming through to the lobby level upstairs.
"I knew the lobby, the usual space for displaying our annual gingerbread house, would not give me enough [room] to fully appreciate the monument, so I decided to use the grand staircase," said Quinn.
Eight carpenters, 15 cooks and three chefs all collaborated for weeks of planning to create this gingerbread replica, which is at a .05 scale of the actual structure that stands 555 feet tall. The replica was almost too tall to fit in the grand staircase and the crane had to be readjusted multiple times to get the proper placement of the five sections of the gingerbread structure, which includes real blinking red lights for air traffic control and 50 American flags circling the base.
"Seeing the final pieces in place, and getting to experience the display for the first time with arriving guests was the highlight of this experience."
If you'd like to learn how to decorate your own gingerbread house, Quinn's pastry team will be teaching a class on Sunday December 10 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for children ages 3-12. The class is $75 per child and includes hot chocolate, holiday cookies, a Ritz-Carlton chef's hat and apron, and you get to keep your gingerbread house.