Make way, Willy Wonka

Display part of effort to collect toys, funds for U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive. Last year brought in $35,000.

November 22, 2007|By Michael Miller

NEWPORT BEACH — Michael Owens had to fight temptation while he put together the Island Hotel’s annual Christmas display — and he won some of the time.

The hotel’s executive pastry chef had the task of overseeing the lobby display that accompanies the Island’s holiday toy drive, which benefits the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign. Inside the front doors, Owens helped to set up two statues, a giant greeting card and a mountainside village all made out of chocolate and confections. At least, most of it ended up in the display.

“I’ve eaten way too much candy over the last six weeks,” Owens said Tuesday as he honed the final touches of the installation. “You’re sitting here putting M&M’s on the roof, and it’s hard not to put one in your mouth.”


The lobby display marked the second year of the Island’s Toys for Tots drive, which began when the hotel took over the property from the Four Seasons Hotel. The Four Seasons had created a gingerbread village in its lobby, executive assistant Tammy Thompson said, and the Island was inspired to create an installation of its own.

The display consists of more than 400 pounds of white and dark chocolate, 300 pounds of sugar, 40 pounds of jelly beans and more.

Once Owens, executive chef Bill Bracken and their staff finished creating the Santa and reindeer sculptures and the 6-foot-high greeting card, they sprayed them with lacquer to preserve them.

Starting Wednesday, the hotel began accepting new, unwrapped toys valued at $10 or more, and selling chocolate display stamps and sponsorships, with all proceeds and toys going to Toys for Tots. The drive brought in about $35,000 last year, according to Thompson.

“We had a lot of toys,” she said. “The Marines came up until the 21st or 22nd to pick up our last truck load.”

MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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