Brittani Szczecina - pastry chef extraordinaire
Community Reporter/Social Media Editor
North Palm Beach Lifeemail@example.com
Go with me, and imagine opening up a storybook and the first line reads ... "Once upon a time there was a giant, dreamy and delicious-looking Gingerbread House, adorned with peppermint, colorful lollipops and candies, frosting and chocolate."
Well, such a Gingerbread House may very well dwell within the fantasy pages of a Golden Book, but the real deal currently exists in full-view beside the enormous Christmas tree in the lobby of the Marriott Resort on Singer Island.
The effusive Executive Pastry Chef, and Boynton Beach native, Brittani Szczecina, who manages a staff of two, shared a few of the secrets behind the tremendous effort it took to execute their glorious, five-foot high creation. Mixing flour, sugar and eggs into delightful confections began early on for her, in the form of cupcakes she baked as a child.
"Baking is a passion, plus I'm from a large Italian family, so food is in my blood," Ms. Szczecina shared.
From baking cupcakes to the kitchens of the Art Institute in North Carolina, Ms, Szczecina joined the Marriott in her current position after most recently serving an Assistant Pastry Chef at The Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach. Something happened in the kitchens at that hotel on The Island, and it had nothing to do with any type of food.
"One day I got hit in the face with a wet paper towel."
The offending thrower?
"It was a fellow staffer named Justin."
What began with that soggy paper, blossomed. They are now married with three rescued animals: Two cats, Milo and Otis, and a dog named Maggie, whom she calls Magpie.
Justin, a native of New Jersey, is still whipping up delights at The Breakers. When baking a cake for a special family member at home, they work as a team, no competition there.
Her personal favorite dessert?
"Traditional tiramisu, sorbet or crème brelee, for sure."
Her favorite cooking shows?
"Master Chef, Jr., and Gordon Ramsey, I love him," she laughed.
But, back to that amazing Gingerbread House.
It took 280 hours (the equivalent of over 30 days -- she and her staff did the job in two weeks), and without revealing too much (a contest starts Dec. 14 on the resort's Facebook page), she said there are over 7,000 pieces of candy. While admiring the artistry of it all, take a close look at the number of peppermints. They came wrapped and had to be unwrapped by hand, so she drafted as many helpers as possible.
Frank Calendrillo, lead concierge at the resort, said he watched them work "like elves" on the project and the result was amazing.
The candy house will come down after New Year's, so you have time to check it out with the family. And if you want to sample a pastry after looking at all that sugar, but don't have time for a sit-down dinner and dessert at the Marriott Singer Island?
No problem. Just pop into the café in the lobby, and get something to take home. I think you may even find some of Executive Pastry Chef Brittani's cupcakes.
"Baking is a passion, plus I'm from a large Italian family, so food is in my blood."
On Monday, Dec. 14, Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island’s Facebook page will launch “10 Days of Giveaways,” giving fans the chance to win everything from a box of truffles to an overnight stay based on questions about the gingerbread house. The fan with the closest guesses combined with the most number of tags will win a prize.