The nation’s largest Annual National Gingerbread House Competition returned for the 30th year to The Omni Grove Park Inn with six new specialty awards, a new judge, increased prizes and more. 219 gingerbread house entrants across Adult, Teen, Youth and Child categories were submitted for a chance to win a piece of more than $40,000 in cash and prizes, a 60 percent increase to years past.
This year’s competition included six new Specialty Chef Nicholas Lodge Awards, renamed in loving memory of former lead judge Chef Nicholas Lodge. Inspired from past entries and the creative elements that competitors have introduced over the years, the Specialty Awards included “Best Use of Color,” “Best Use of Sprinkles,” “Most Unique Ingredient,” “Pop Culture Star,” “Most Innovative Structure,” and “Longest Standing Competitor.” Additionally, for the first time, registered competitors had the opportunity to vote on their favorite design to determine the winner of the new “People's Choice: Best in Show Award.”
The judge panel evaluated each creation based on overall appearance, originality, creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme, with each entry required to be 75 percent gingerbread and 100 percent edible. Judges included Carla Hall, celebrity chef, author and TV personality; Ashleigh Shanti, chef/owner of Good Hot Fish and 2020 James Beard finalist; lead judge Mark Seaman, culinary applications chef for Barry Callebaut; Nadine Orenstein, curator of the department of drawings and prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Cheryl Forberg, James Beard award-winning chef and dietitian; Geoff Blount, pastry chef and teacher; John Cook, executive pastry chef at The Omni Grove Park Inn; Steven Stellingwerf, pastry chef, author and teacher; and Aaron Morgan, executive pastry chef at the Stable Café on The Biltmore Estate.
The 2022 top three winning entries in the Adult, Teen, Youth and Child categories include:
- Grand Prize Winner, Adult First Place: Ann Bailey, "When Dreams Have Wings" – Cary, NC
- Adult Second Place: Beatriz Muller, "The Time of Christmas Past" – Cold Water, ON
- Adult Third Place: Tiny Farm Bakers, "Merry Mountain Mayhem" – Montreat, NC
- Teen (ages 13-17) First Place: Rhinehart Girls, "Fairy Tea House" – Columbia, TN
- Teen Second Place: Courtland High School German Program, "Clara's Dream" – Spotsylvania, VA
- Teen Third Place: Lolajay, "A Merry 'Type' Of Christmas" – Asheville, NC
- Youth (ages 9-12) First Place: Coble Adams, "Santa Yoda and His Baby Elves" – Raleigh, NC
- Youth Second Place: Hailey Wesolek, "Christmas In The Treehouse" – Swanannoa, NC
- Youth Third Place: Ella Frahler, "Workbench Of A Sewing Elf" – Greenville, SC
- Child (ages 5-8) First Place: Maisy Frahler, "Christmas Morning Paper Dolls" – Greenville, SC
- Child Second Place: Team Tinker, "The Christmas Chapel" – Lexington, KY
- Child Third Place: Glitter Girls, "Mrs. Claus' Fairies" – Toccoa, GA
The first-ever 2022 People's Choice: Best in Show Award was given to Jessica Frost, "Engine of America" – El Paso, TX
The 2022 winners across the six new Chef Nicholas Lodge Awards include:
- Best Use of Color: Difficult Dessert Devotees, "Inside Out Christmas Party" – Fuquay-Varina, NC
- Best Use of Sprinkles: Odyssey 3-4 Seekers, "The Ginger Ridge Parkway" – Asheville, NC
- Most Unique Ingredient: Strangest Sisters, "Vecna's Lair" – Asheville, NC (with the use of Nori)
- Most Innovative Structure: Team Andreacola, "National Museum of Gingerbread" – Indian Trail, NC
- Pop Culture Star: Coble Adams, "Santa Yoda And His Baby Elves" – Raleigh, NC
- Longest Standing Competitor: Merry Spafford, "Mother Goose on the Loose" – Loudon, TN (having competed 19 consecutive years)
The 2022 winner for the participant who traveled the furthest was Beatritz Mejia, "Santa Academy" Guatemala.
The Omni Grove Park Inn will display all gingerbread creations in-person throughout the resort from November 28, 2022 through January 2, 2023. All Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and those that have confirmed dining reservations. Guests not staying at the resort are invited to view the display anytime Monday-Thursday and after 6 pm on Sundays, based on parking availability and excluding holidays and December 23-25, 30-31 and January 1.