Between preparing for the in-laws, hanging the lights, and wrapping presents, there is seldom time for those family traditions and activities that define the holidays. It is so often that we find food being the common link drawing family and friends together, with this time of the year holding no exception. It seems only fitting that up-and-coming young chefs, learning their trade with eagerness and creativity, should be the ones to provide this brand of closeness to those in their own communities. To answer this call, Delcastle Technical High School's own Cooks and Bakers have stepped up each winter for the last five years to give back to those whom have given to them by spreading the holiday spirit and bringing families closer one gingerbread house at a time. These events include helping children with hands-on construction of miniature gingerbread houses, decorating chocolate-covered snowmen, hearing great stories about the holidays, enjoying homemade hot chocolate and sharing some great family time. Also, there is never a charge for the events, however, to ensure that everybody's holiday season is pleasant, participants are encouraged to bring along non-perishable food items to support the Food Bank of Delaware.

How Cooks and Bakers Began

Cooks and Bakers began as a team of Delcastle culinary arts students preparing for statewide and national competitions and evolved into so much more. Going on six years, Delcastle's Cooks and Bakers have been actively involved in community service learning more and more, not only about their trade and industry, but the importance of sharing their passion for all that is cooking with those around them. This dedication to Culinary Arts certainly has not gone unnoticed with Cooks and Bakers appearing in The Wilmington News Journal and on local radio, and even appearing as a weekly feature on Nickelodeon's Nick News with Linda Ellerbee. The students are also proud recipients of the 2008 National Education Association Youth Leaders for Literacy Award for promoting literacy through story-inspired events for children in their community. These are students who are dedicated to their industry in and out of the classroom, this being a driving force for events such as the Great Gingerbread House Construction Tour to be student-run. Many of these young chefs are more than willing to give their time after school to make this event possible and something that they can be proud of year after year. The annual event, with many ideas borne from ChefTalk members some years ago, has become a staple on calendars and anxiously awaited by families throughout the community. "December, gingerbread houses and the Cooks and Bakers have become so inexorably intertwined over the past five years for our patrons and staff, that none of us can imagine one without the others,"  Said Jackie Harad, Children's Librarian, New Castle Public Library.

How We Keep It Going

Up until the federal funding reduction of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Great Gingerbread House Construction Tour and many other events by Delcastle's Cooks and Bakers have been sponsored by Learn and Serve America. This year, the student members of the Cooks and Bakers have worked to continue their mission by employing their skills in the kitchen by catering private events, operating a hot dog cart and appealing to local businesses for support. "To say I was impressed with this field trip is an understatement. Research shows that children as young as five years-old can build lifelong memories. I thank Delcastle and the Cooks and Bakers Club for those memories that will last a lifetime." Bree Williams, Kindergarten Instructor, Wilbur Elementary School. Parents of one student were so concerned about the group's ability to continue with the Great Gingerbread House Construction Tour made a donation to keep this year's program afloat.

How You Can Help

As the years of service grow, so does the reach of the Tour. What started out with a handful of interested students, has grown into a multifaceted event bridging literacy, quality family time and fun in the kitchen held together by a team of forty students, locations throughout the county and months of planning. Pictures of events, the group's activities and service calendar can be found at:  

With your support

  • We will continue to provide food-based educational programs for young children
  • We will help bridge the literacy gap by making fun connections to children’s literature
  • We will prepare students to meet the demands of industry by taking their classroom experiences to the next level

Donations of $20 or more will be recognized with a special gift. Additionally, all donors will be publicly acknowledged on the group’s website,