Victory is Sweet—and Savory—for Big Island Chocolate Festival Winners

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The seventh annual Big Island Chocolate Festival gala to benefit five island nonprofits was sold out again this year with over 675 attendees at the event at the Hapuna Beach Hotel.

The event theme, “Chocolate Around the World,” was depicted at culinary stations and Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i was tapped “Best Decorated Booth” with a giant revolving chocolate globe. The massive orb identified the geographic origins of chocolate used in both of the Fairmont’s savory and sweet culinary offerings, which each won “People’s Choice Awards.”

Creations by chefs, chocolatiers and culinary students were also critiqued on taste, texture, appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges at competitions during the two-day festival.

(L–R) Professional winners at the 2018 Big Island Chocolate Festival gala: Suzanna Angeles and Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Dayne Tanabe and Eddie Enojardo of Hilton Waikoloa Village, Michelle Yamaguchi of Wailua Estate, Gage Smit and Daniel Sampson of Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i, Wesley Campbell accepting for Nine Fine Mynahs and Susan Bassett of Mauna Kea Cacao. Courtesy photo.

Gala culinary winners were Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village for “Best Savory,” Chefs Suzanna Angeles and Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai 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.” Winning the cacao competitions were Nine Fine Mynahs for Best Criollo Bean and Mauna Kea Cacao for Best Cacao Bean.


In addition, three Hawai‘i Island high school culinary teams vied for “People’s Choice Awards” Saturday night. Kealakehe High School culinarians took top honors for both savory and sweet offerings.

Kealakehe High School’s culinary teams earned both savory and sweet People’s Choice Awards and are pictured from left: Kai Kale, Keoni Gandolf, Celia Goddard, instructor Karen Sheff, Alex Gambing, Clarissa Pellicia, Branden Okubo, Jett Johnson and Avan Becerra. Courtesy photo.

“This event provided an amazing opportunity for students to learn in a real life setting with guidance from industry experts and support from our community,” noted Karen Sheff, Kealakehe culinary instructor.

For Friday’s college competition, which pitted two-person teams of University of Hawai‘i Maui College advanced pastry students, Mya Carter and Alyssa Frost took first, Lady-Lyn Dasmarinas and Gary Perreira took second and Chayce Cardenas and Merie Pastrana took third.


Judges for the various competitions hailed from throughout the state and Mainland: Chef Alicia Boada CEPC, CCA, CCE, ACE of Cacao Barry; Chef Connor Butler of Kona Butcher Shop; Chef Anna Hoehberger of Hilton Waikoloa Village, Chef Emily Rosenberg of Four Season Resort Maui; Chef Frank Kramm of Kona Butcher Shop, Chef Hannah Stanchfield of UH-Maui College; Chef Jeremy Choo of King’s Hawaiian Bakery; Chef Joseph Tocci of UH-Maui College; Dr. Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate; Neal Campbell of Healani Orchards; Chef Ricky DeBoer of Fairmont, Kea Lani; Chef Stephane Treand MOF of The Pastry School; Chef Teresa Shurilla of UH-Maui College; Vicky Kometani of Mauna Kea Resort and Chef Yoshikazu Kizu of The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

The real winners of the annual festival are the five 2018 beneficiaries: Hawai’i Institute of Pacific Agriculture, UHMC’s Culinary Arts Program, Waimea Country School, and founding event organizations Kona Pacific Public Charter School and Kona Dance & Performing Arts.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, the Big Island Chocolate Festival not only heralds Hawai’i’s growing cacao industry, but also the professional and student culinarians who masterfully create foods featuring chocolate.


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 new chocolate and tequila pairing.

Visit www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com for updates on next year’s event, which will be held on April 26 and 27, 2019.

The mission and goal of KCA is to promote the cacao industry on the Big Island of Hawai‘i by presenting BICF as an educational and outreach opportunity for local cacao farmers, the hospitality industry and cacao enthusiasts. Mahalo to 2018 event sponsors: Big Island Honda, Cacao Barry, Callebaut, Clark Realty Corporation, Cocoa Outlet, Coconut Wireless Weekly, DHX, Guittard Chocolate Company, Hapuna Beach Resort, Hawaii Coffee Connection, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, HFM Food Service, Island Asphalt Maintenance, Keauhou Veterinary Hospital, Kona Auto Center, Kona Brewing Company, Mehana Brewing Company, Office Max, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Power Self Storage, Prova, Republica Del Cacao, RimFire Imports, Restaurantware.comSouthern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Tattoo Tequila, The Spoon Shop, Valrhona USA, Waialua Estate Coffee & Chocolate, What to Do Media and The Wave@92FM. For more information, go online.

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