(BIVN) – The 8th annual Big Island Chocolate Festival gala was held on Saturday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. A sold-out crowd of 700 chocolate enthusiasts attended the event, which was held as a benefit for seven island non-profits.
According to an event media release:
Creations by chefs, chocolatiers and culinary students were critiqued on taste, texture, appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges at competitions during the annual two-day festival.
Heading the list of culinary winners were event newcomers Mike Winder of Kailua-Kona’s Loko Wraps for Best Savory, who offered a vegan dish; and Anna Hohenberger of Puna Chocolate Company for Best Plated Dessert. Pastry Chef Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai took Best Bonbon while Michelle Yamaguchi of Oahu’s Waialua Estate Chocolate won Best Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.
Those who best dazzled the crowd with their creations earned the People’s Choice Awards: Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Savory and Pastry Chef Daniel Sampson of the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii for Best Sweet.
In the cacao bean divisions, Ken Melrose of Primavera Farm bested 13 other entries for the Best Cacao Bean while Kealia Ranch earned Best Criollo Bean.
“It’s great the field of competition is growing in the bean division, which basically critiques the quality of beans after fermentation and drying,” noted Farsheed Bonakdar, president of the Kona Cacao Association, the organization that produces the festival. “Proper fermentation optimizes the flavor profile of chocolate.”
In addition, four Hawaii Island high school culinary teams vied for People’s Choice Awards Saturday night. Kealakehe High culinarians took top honors for both savory and sweet offerings, a dual repeat winner from last year.
The event theme, “Black and White,” was depicted at culinary stations and Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory of Kona was tapped Best Decorated Booth.
For Friday’s college competition, seven, two-person teams from Kona’s UH-Palamanui and UH-Maui College vied in a timed dessert competition that incorporated chocolate. Winners included Team 5 Marion Sidon and Daniele Sulliban of Maui, Team 6 Bristol Anae and Tiffany Figeroa of Maui and Team 1 Thomas Elarco and Lily Frazier of Palamanui.
Judges for the various competitions hailed from throughout the state and Mainland: Chef Alicia Boada CEPC, CCA, CCE, ACE of Cacao Barry; Chef Stephane Treand MOF of The Pastry School; Chef David Brown of Kapiolani Community College, Dr. Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate, Chef Connor Butler of Kona Butcher Shop; Neal Campbell of Healani Orchards; Chef Ricky DeBoer of Fairmont, Kea Lani; Chef Muzzy Fernandez of Hokulia, Chef Yoshikazu Kizu of The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua; Chef Daniel Sampson of Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii; Chefs Teresa (Cheech) Shurilla and Hannah Stanchfield of UH-Maui College; Maddy Smith of Barefoot Chocolatini and Weston Yap.
The real winners of the annual festival are the seven 2019 beneficiaries: the culinary programs at Hawaii Community College Palamanui, Kealakehe High School, Hawai‘i Island High Schools and Maui Community College, plus Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture, Waimea Country School and Kona Dance & Performing Arts.
In addition to last night’s gala, the festival offered a full lineup of chocolate decadence from planting to plating: a Kona cacao farm tour, cacao growing and processing seminars, how-to culinary demonstrations by chocolate industry experts and a unique chocolate and tequila pairing.
Visit bigislandchocolatefestival.com for updates on next year’s event.
The mission and goal of the Kona Cacao Association is to promote the cacao industry on the Big Island of Hawaii by presenting BICF as an educational and outreach opportunity for local cacao farmers, the hospitality industry and cacao enthusiasts. Mahalo to 2019 sponsors: Cacao Berry, Callebaut, The Coconut Wireless Weekly, Cocoa Outlet & The Chocolate Guy Hawaii, DHX, Guittard Chocolate Company, Hawaii Coffee Connection, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, Kona Business Center, Kona Brewing Company, Mehana Brewing Company, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Primavera Farm, Purely Artisan Foods, Restaurantware, Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, Tattoo Tequila, Valhrona Chocolate, Waialua Estate Coffee & Chocolate, The Wave@92FM and The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort.