Nothing says "season's greetings" like a gingerbread house -- especially with a dollop or two of whipped cream to create a winter wonderland.
In the spirit of the holiday hustle and bustle, the "GMA Weekend" anchors are wagering a friendly Christmas competition: build the jolliest gingerbread house inspired by a Christmas carol. And no one's taking the competition "gingerly." To make their visions of sugar plums dance, each anchor has paired up with an expert pastry chef.
Bill Weir: "My concept is 'Silver Bells.' The version we enjoy at my home is the Elvis Presley version. I grew up listening to it; my wife grew up listening to it. The idea of Christmas in New York City sounded so exciting and romantic. When I moved to New York later in life, it was exactly how cool I thought it would be."
Michael Gabriel is the executive pastry chef at The Sea Grill, The Grand Tier, and Cucina & Co. After graduating from New England Culinary and completing a pastry apprenticeship in Antwerp, Belgium, Chef Gabriel joined Charlie Palmer's team at Cuisinaire Club. His nine subsequent years with Charlie Palmer took him to Alva, the Lenox Room, Astra Catering and Aureole Las Vegas. He directed the pastry operations at five Citarella stores in Manhattan and opened his own pastry shop in his native Staten Island, N.Y.
Kate Snow: "Every year, we watch 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' over and over and over again. It tells a really good story. The Grinch realizes Christmas isn't about the presents. It's my favorite cartoon to watch with my kids."
Lauri Ditunno is the owner and chef at Cake Alchemy in New York. Chef Ditunno's extensive experience as a pastry chef, including the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia and the Atlanta Athletic Club, along with her work as an R&D chef at Heidi's Gourmet Desserts and Love and Quiches, prepared her to run her own business. Chef Ditunno trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Culinary School of Confectionary Art and International School of Sugar Art.
Ron Claiborne: "It's my favorite Christmas carol. I like the beat, I like the joy in it. I always imagine it being the final Christmas carol of a series of carols ending with this crescendo of music and wonderful sound, great lyrics."
Elizabeth Hodes is the owner and chef at Elizabeth Hodes Custom Cakes and Sugar Art in New York. A self-taught artist, Chef Hodes has displayed her cakes in New York Weddings, Brides, Modern Bride and Brides New York. Though Chef Hodes is based in New York, her commissions have taken her to Los Angeles and to the Caribbean, most recently St. Barthelemy in the French West Indies.
Marysol Castro: "The diamond rings, minks, gold, a yacht, a '54 convertible! It plays to the girlie side in us. It's breathy and sultry."
Mark Tasker is the head pastry chef at Balthazar Bakery in New York. Chef Tasker trained at the Ealing Culinary College in London and apprenticed with a German bakery. He traveled to America and worked as a pastry chef in Philadelphia before moving back to England to work at Patisserie Valerie in Soho, London. In 1991, Chef Tasker returned to America and, shortly after arriving to New York City, began baking for Keith McNally restaurants. Chef Tasker is a regular contributor to the Bronx Botanical Garden's Gingerbread Adventures exhibition.