The contest: Bake the best gingerbread house.
The rules: Use no more than $10 of material and finish within 12 hours.
The result: a miniature Alpine village of 21 gingerbread buildings, from a church ready for midnight services to a Spanish-style house complete with the graffiti of an infamous Los Angeles "tagger."
The architects are students at the Los Angeles International Culinary School, and their chef-d'oeuvres are on display at the school's restaurant in the Los Angeles Equestrian Center near Griffith Park.
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite creation, with ballots to be counted late today, said Raimund Hofmeister, the school's president and top chef. The winner will be announced Sunday.
"We've had an amazing response," Hofmeister said. "They are very popular."
The Dec. 6 assignment called for students to design and bake houses no bigger than 26 inches by 18 inches and no taller than two feet. A model train chugs around the finished products, some of which have tiny Christmas trees out front and children playing in "snow" made of sugar. Scrawled on one house is "Chaka"--the same "tag" sprayed on locations throughout Los Angeles by a man who has had publicized brushes with the law.
Of the students involved, 10 are experienced cooks from the school's advanced class and 11 are beginners.
The gingerbread village is situated just inside the entrance to the restaurant, but it's not on the menu. "A lot of customers would have loved to buy one and take it home, but they are not for sale," Hofmeister said. Instead, the display will be taken down on Monday, the chef said, and the edible houses perhaps donated to orphanages or another charity serving children.
The gingerbread houses will be on display today from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.