Summit Right Brain: Ned Archibald’s chocolate village turns 20 at Keystone
Executive pastry chef Ned Archibald has been with Keystone Resort since 1994. His elaborate desserts at the resort events have wowed people with not only the taste, but also their intricate beauty. This Friday marks the 20th year he has been creating the infamous 5,000-plus-pound chocolate village that sits in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge and Spa.
Summit Daily News: Tell us a little about how you make the Chocolate Village for those who have never seen it before.
Ned Archibald: Friday, Dec. 18 will mark the 20th year of displaying Chocolateville in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge & Spa. The first year began with a simple 8”x4” sheet of plywood and several hundred pounds of chocolate. It now stretches around half of the lobby, is more than 80-feet long and incorporates more than 5,000 pounds of semi sweet, milk and white Belgium chocolate. We are able to store it in several sections in climate-controlled cases and each year we begin preparing the village in October. My pastry chef for the past 20 years, Victor Saldivar, along with assistant pastry chefs, Cristina Caldera and Libia Ranweiler, work non-stop for more than two months to bring the entire display back to life after a year in storage.
SDN: The Keystone Chocolate Village turns 20 this year — are you doing anything special to commemorate the occasion?
NA: The display features two different levels with solid chocolate train cars (except the engines — they melted on the track when I made them chocolate) whisking around an entire town made out of solid chocolate, including in and out of chocolate mountains and tunnels. There is an actual flowing chocolate waterfall, and two chocolate gondola cabins traveling up and down the 500-pound mountain.
Adjacent to Chocolateville is a 650-pound white chocolate Christmas Tree guarded by two, 150-pound, 4-foot-tall Nutcrackers named Bill and Jane, honoring The Bergman’s, who founded Keystone along with Max and Edna Dercum, in 1970. The tree is surrounded with more than 50 “wrapped” presents all made of chocolate and sugar. Among the gifts are many different toys also entirely chocolate. I have some classics such as a rocking horse, teddy bear, baseball bat and ball, snare drum and Hello Kitty. New this year the display will feature 10 Star Wars figures and vessels to celebrate “The Force Awakens.” There will be Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper and Tie Fighter pilot, AT-AT Walker, Millennium Falcon, Yoda and introducing BB-8 — a cute droid from the new movie.
SDN: What is your inspiration behind the chocolate village?
NA: My inspiration to create a chocolate town with moving chocolate trains was twofold. First, I was sick of making gingerbread house displays. Second was Spencer Gifts, which is a store in many shopping malls across the country. Spencer’s would always have a display out in the mall directly in front of its doors with a display that would feature an electronic barking dog or a Monster truck that climbed over rocks. I noticed as a young pastry chef that crowds of people would stop and watch the toy do its “tricks” for quite awhile and were seemingly very entertained. That’s when I decided I needed to bring “action” to my creation. My original idea was a chocolate tree with a chocolate train circling under the tree, as in a classic Norman Rockwell painting. However, my hotel GM at the time insisted on gingerbread. So I created a town made out of that horrible cookie (Sorry, not a fan) and had the train running around the outskirts of the town, and it darted in and out of two gingerbread mountains. When I arrived at Keystone 21 years ago, they were willing to let me “do my thing,” and the rest, as they say, is history. I wanted to use chocolate because it has a magical hold on people that you just do not get from cookie dough. People by and large have a “love affair” with the Nectar of the Gods, so when they see 5,000-pounds of it all carved and hand crafted into a display, they lose their minds.
SDN: Tell us a little about your background as a pastry chef.
NA: My grandfather had bakeries on Cape Cod, where I was born and raised. At the age of 8, I would get up at 2 a.m. with my dad and go to the bakery to grease the muffin pans for him. By 10 years old, I was making the muffins, then cupcakes, then doughnuts. At 16, I decorated my first wedding cake for a cousin. I attended my aunt’s baking school in Norwood, Massachusetts for two years before heading off to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I graduate with the honors of “most likely to succeed,” so the pressure was on. I actually went into hot-food production for two years; however, I missed the bakery life — and smells — and found my way to assistant pastry chef with the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. There, an incredibly talented pastry chef by the name of Gerd Lundkowski taught me how to work with and carve chocolate. I stayed with the Fairmont for the next 12 years with stops in Denver and San Jose, California. In 1994, I landed my dream job here at Keystone Resort and where I’ve been since.
SDN: What are your favorite/least favorite types of desserts to make and why?
NA: I love to create “themed” desserts such as the one I do annually for Dancing with the Mountain Stars. This past year, I made them a chocolate martini glass filled with crème brûlée and accented with white chocolate “bubbles.” My least favorite would be when I get a request for “light” or “healthy” desserts. To me, that is an oxymoron. Give me rich and decadent every time.
SDN: How long have you lived in Summit, and what other hobbies do you have?
NA: My wife Karen and I, along with her 100-year-old mom, Hazel, have lived in Park County for all 21 years I have been at Keystone. My hobbies are like everyone else here in the High Country — snowboarding, cross-country skiing and mountain biking with my two retired greyhound racers.
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