A Sweet & Classy Feast for Ears, Eyes & Taste Buds
Luscious, smooth, rich, sweet, savory and decadent. These adjectives adequately describe this year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival Gala, which returned for its sixth year on Saturday, April 29, at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Kohala.
Sweet and classy sum up the ambiance at this year’s social event, leaving attendees already marking their calendars for next year’s grand fête.
Music from the Magic Strings wafted out of the ballroom as the wine, chocolate beer and chocolate cocktails were flowing.
Chocolate culinary creations from Maui and Hawaiʻi Island were entered into this year’s festival to the pleasure of a sold-out crowd of 600 guests.
Chocolate lovers filled the grand ballroom and spilled out into the courtyard to sample delicious delicacies at this much-anticipated fundraiser benefiting four island nonprofits.
The two-day gathering began on Friday and featured seminars, contests and culinary demonstrations.
Saturday night’s gala was the pièce de résistance of the festival, highlighting sweet and savory snacks from chocolatiers who promoted their craft and vied for the prestigious culinary awards.
Celebrity judges critiqued all edible entries based on taste, texture, appearance and creativity.
A special bonus at this year’s event was a dance performance by Kona Dance and Performing Arts students who performed a musical theater piece called “Le Chocolat.”
Between the culinary arts, dancing and music, it was an artistic extravaganza that was a feast for both the ears, eyes and taste buds.
Among the award winners were Four Seasons Resort Hualalai for Best Decorated Booth, Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village took home the award for Best Savory creation, Donald Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate Company for Best Plated Dessert, Chef Eddie Enojardo of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Bonbon and Michelle Yamaguchi of Wailua Estate for Best Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.
People’s Choice Awards went to Chef Alan Heap of Huggo’s for Best Savory and Guittard for Best Sweet.
In the farm awards division, Gini Choobua of Likao Kula Farm earned Best Cacao while J. Bennett of Nine Fine Mynahs took Best Criollo.
Six high school culinary teams participated in the gala with Kea‘au High School winning first, followed by Waiakea in second and Konawaena in third.
Three students earning culinary scholarships were Hannah Norman and Mina Acosta-Cabamungan of Waiakea and Rhoma Dai of Kea‘au.
Earning first place in the high school culinary division were students from Kea‘au High School.
Students at Waiakea High School placed second in the high school culinary division.
Taking third place in the high school culinary division was the Konawaena team.
The Big Island Chocolate Festival is presented by the Kona Cacao Association with proceeds benefiting the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Association, Kona Dance and Performing Arts, Kona Pacific Public Charter School and Waimea Country School’s Na Keiki Aloha ‘Aina.