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The Gingerbread Man: District's only male cafeteria manager wins contest

By Nicole Cobler - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
Dec. 22, 2013 at 6:22 a.m.
Updated Dec. 23, 2013 at 6:23 a.m.

Cafeteria staff with the Victoria school district created gingerbread houses for a competition last week.

Who else won?

• Second place - Dudley Elementary School

• Third place - Hopkins Elementary School

• People's choice - F.W. Gross Magnet Elementary School

If first impressions really count, then Greg Knapp made a lasting and tasty one.

Knapp, who is in his first year working with F.W. Gross Magnet Elementary School and also is the only male cafeteria manager in the school district, won first place in the annual district's gingerbread house-making competition.

The 26 gingerbread houses lined with gumdrop and peppermint sidewalks sat side by side in the Victoria school district administration building last week.

The tasty treats are built by the cafeteria workers of each campus in VISD, and the event becomes a spirited but friendly competition for the schools each year.

The campuses are given three to four weeks to work on their houses, said Diane Boyett, the school district's spokeswoman. A panel of three staffers pick first through third places, as well as a people's choice award.

This is only the second gingerbread house Knapp has ever made, though he has had a lot of experience with cake decorating and has a background in construction, he said.

The gingerbread house took three days to build and was completely handmade, he said, unlike some, which used Graham crackers with boxes underneath to hold up the structure.

"I've heard a lot about the humidity here and it affecting the gingerbread, but I wanted to make it authentic," Knapp said. "The biggest challenge was mostly getting the dough right and making the pieces fit."

The gingerbread houses were given Friday to a random student at each campus during breakfast.

Dana Bigham, school district food service director, said the only regulation is the size of the gingerbread house. It cannot be any higher or longer than the size of the cafeteria serving tray.

Mary Lara, child nutrition manager at Dudley Elementary, has worked in the school district for 22 years and said her favorite part of the competition was giving the house away.

Lara's design was different from previous years because she decided to create a gingerbread train instead of a house. She said she found the idea online and thought it would be a good way to beat the other schools.

"We mainly give it to the kids who eat breakfast all the time," Lara said. "The kids are usually happy and really excited when we give it away."

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