Although Executive Chef Jon Farace didn't construct gingerbread houses as a child, he's now making up for lost time. Farace is the mastermind behind the eco-friendly and fully organic "Green Gingerbread House," which stands 10 feet high by 14 feet wide in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton in Uptown. As a child, he realized that he wanted to be a chef while watching his mother cook and bake. At that point, Farace says he knew "that you can impact the happiness of others by using quality, fresh ingredients." Farace, who was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, joined The Ritz-Carlton group in February 2003. He has since worked in Boston, Orlando and is now proud to call Charlotte home. Since joining the Charlotte property five months before it opened its doors, Farace has taken on many culinary roles as well as continued to contemplate additional edible life-size creations for the future.
Creative Loafing: Is there a significant individual, or chef, that you look up to and model your work after?
Jon Farace: My grandmother always taught me that you can be and do whatever you want. I remember spending a Saturday at the local library researching and working on one of my school projects with her when I was in the second grade. It was a project on bees. She was an elementary school teacher who took pride and delight in sharing her passion for education with her grandchildren. I've continued that education, as I have brought two active beehives housing over 120,000 bees to the roof of the hotel. I'm sure she would be proud to share in my success.
In your opinion, what particular piece of candy completes a gingerbread house?
I would have to say the candy cane. When you think of the holidays and gingerbread, the first thing that comes to mind is a candy cane. Every child knows the classic shape and flavor.
How did the "Green Gingerbread House" idea evolve and what were the hardest aspects of the gingerbread house to create?
[It] started as a gingerbread house, plain and simple, on a scrap piece of paper. It evolved quickly, first as a replication of a Tudor-style mansion — one I passed in the SouthPark area. Then the house needed to be "green" and sustainable ... so we had the green roof and all organic ingredients. The size grew as well. We solicited the help of some builders to help us take our vision from graph paper to a real structure. The gingerbread house speaks to our many "green" initiatives — from buying local ingredients to creating an overall awareness that everyone can impact the environment. [The hardest aspects to create were] matching our vision with diagrams and having them come alive on a much larger scale. We needed about 1,500 lbs. of gingerbread, and that was just the start of it.