In order to start the season of giving with some sweetness, the College of the Canyons Institute for Culinary Education will hold its first-ever Gingerbread House Display and Competition. Individual participants and teams are invited to create their best gingerbread displays for the chance to win gift cards. The registration deadline is Dec. 1 and entries are due on Dec. 4. A public reception with tours of the culinary school and refreshments will be held the same day at 5:30 p.m. There is no entry fee for competitors. However, those who wish to attend the reception are asked to bring a canned food item to benefit the COC Student Health & Wellness Center “Food for Thought” Food Pantry. Chef and adjunct professor Kristianne Descher said she was inspired to create the competition after she discovered one of her students was homeless. “This student told me that the only time that they were eating was when they came to class and they were taking food home from class,” Drescher said. “It opened my eyes to the different struggles happening within our school and department.” Drescher said she later found out about the on-campus food pantry and was able to share that resource with the student. The gingerbread house competition is a way for Drescher to increase supplies for the pantry and to spread awareness. She said she is especially pushing for donations during this time of year because the food pantry assembles boxes of food for students who need support but will be away from campus during the winter break. A panel comprised of COC staff will judge the submissions on different criteria including originality, creativity and neatness. Reception guests will be able to vote for the winner of the People’s Choice award. Chef Cindy Schwanke, department chair of culinary arts and wine studies, said the event was actually planned for last year, but due to time constraints and logistical red tape, it had to be postponed until this year. She said the idea to do a gingerbread house competition partially stemmed from the students and their interest in similar competitions on the Food Network. “I think people are drawn to gingerbread houses for the fantasy aspect,” Schwenke said. “It’s a great way for chefs and home cooks to show their creative side. I’ve been a pastry chef for 30 years and we always have gingerbread houses.” Drescher agreed, saying she and the judges are hoping to see some “out-of–the-box creative” entries, but also emphasized that she wanted people to enjoy the process of making their houses. “Whether someone is using a store-bought kit or making the gingerbread from scratch, we’re not looking for something grandiose but for creativity,” she said. “We want people to have a good time and to have fun with the seasonality of the event.” The deadline to register for the competition is Dec. 1. For rules and more information, contact Descher at Kristianne.firstname.lastname@example.org or Schwanke at email@example.com.