8th Annual Festival Attracts Big Island Chocoholics
“If you want to view paradise, take a look around and view it.” These famous words from the legendary, fictional character Willie Wonka were brought to life last Saturday, April 27, 2019, at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, when 700 chocolate lovers attended the 8th Annual Big Island Chocolate Festival gala.
Local chefs and culinary students brought their best game forward, creating sweet and savory chocolate delicacies to delight attendees, and impress the team of celebrity judges. Their competition entries were critiqued on taste, texture and aesthetics during the annual two-day festival and gala.
The coveted People’s Choice Award went to Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Savory and Pastry Chef Daniel Sampson of the Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i for Best Sweet.
Chef Tanabe’s winning dish was his savory Korean Chicken and Waffles.
“I’ve participated in this event for the past seven or eight years,” said Tanabe. “My biggest question is always which protein to feature in my dish. I’ve never used chicken, so this year I create a chicken and waffle dish. I used cocoa powder to dust the chicken breast as part of my breading procedure for the ube waffle crust. The roasted carrot mole had a creamy texture with a little smoke from dried guajillo chiles. I then incorporated 70% Waialua Estate chocolate. For my pickled medley carrots, I used fermented cacao juice to pickle my shave carrots. The pickled carrots dish bring with it a pop of flavor. The cocoa nib, kale furikake added an umami flavor, then I finished with some local micro-cilantro from Kipu‘upuu Farms.”
Event newcomer Mike Winder of Loko Wraps won for for Best Savory and Anna Hohenberger of Puna Chocolate Company for Best Plated Dessert. Pastry Chef Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai took Best Bonbon. Michelle Yamaguchi of O‘ahu’s Waialua Estate Chocolate won Best Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.
The annual event brings together community members with a common love of chocolate,
and also offers an opportunity for culinary professionals to network and share their
creations with guests and each other.
“Not only is it a fun culinary community event, it also supports our Hawaii Cacao Farmers who produce high quality chocolate,” said Tanabe. “In addition, it gives local chefs a chance to see our colleagues that we don’t often see. We get to share the same floor and create our savory and sweet creations for guests to enjoy. I also enjoy getting to meet new people and talking to them about our new menu at Kamuela Provision Company while tasting our dishes.”
Other winners include Ken Melrose of Primavera Farm, who took the award for Best Cacao Bean and Kealia Ranch won Best Criollo Bean.
Four Hawai‘i Island high school culinary teams entered the competition as well, with Kealakehe High students winning first place People’s Choice Awards in both the savory and sweet categories.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory of Kona won Best Decorated Booth.
The college competition took place the Friday prior to the gala and included seven, two-person teams from Kona’s Hawai‘i Community College – Palamanui and the University of Hawai‘i Maui College, who challenged each other in a timed dessert competition incorporating chocolate. The winners were Marion Sidon and Daniele Sullivan of Maui, Bristol Anae and Tiffany Figeroa of Maui and Thomas Elarco and Lily Frazier of Palamanui.
This year’s festival benefited seven local nonprofits: the culinary programs at Hawai‘i Community College – Palamanui, Kealakehe High School, Hawai‘i Island high schools and UH Maui College, plus the Hawai‘i Institute of Pacific Agriculture, Waimea Country School and Kona Dance & Performing Arts.
The gala was a celebrated wrap-up of a two-day lineup of everything chocolate. In addition to the gala, the festival offered various workshops, 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 Big Island Chocolate Festival for updates on next year’s event.