10th annual Big Island Chocolate Festival promises sweet, savory treats

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The 10th annual Big Island Chocolate Festival will feature chocolate cooking demonstrations and about 20 culinary booths that will have sweet and savory treats for those who attend. (Photos from past festival events courtesy of Big Island Chocolate Festival)

If you’re seeking something to satisfy your sweet tooth this weekend on the Big Island, then treat your taste buds to everything chocolate.

The Big Island Chocolate Festival, hosted by the Kona Cacao Association, returns for its 10th annual installment on April 28 and 29 at a new venue, the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.

The festival promises to indulge your senses and feed your brain with chocolate cooking demonstrations and tastings that showcase sweet and savory dishes as well as cacao-growing workshops and a grand gala.

“It is a fun event on the island and definitely an experience to remember,” said long-time festival chairwoman Stephanie Beeby. “Great vibes — dancing, yummy tastings and lots of social connection. Always hosted at a nice location and by the beach. What can be better?”

Kicking things off Friday, beginning at 9 a.m., is the culinary competition for college students — think “Master Chef” only college style with plenty of chocolate. The event is free to attend and support.


From 1 to 5 p.m., local and budding farmers who want to know how to grow, sell and harvest cacao on the Big Island can attend three seminars:

  • 1 p.m.: “Fermentation Process with Cacao” by Benjamin Fields, founder of Māpele Fields on O‘ahu, which processes cacao for 21 growers.
  • 2:15 p.m.: “Maximizing Profits and Reach with Eco-Tourism” facilitated by Maddy Smith, founder of Barefoot Chocolatini, an eco-tourism company on the Big Island’s Hāmākua Coast.
  • 3:30 p.m.: “The Importance of Proper Tempering — Your Quality of Chocolate Depends on It” by chef Stéphane Tréand, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman of France) of The Pastry School in Tustin, Calif.

Possible sponsorship opportunities are available for cacao farmers experiencing hardship so they can attend the workshops for free. Check with the Kona Cacao Association for additional details.

The association’s mission is to support and promote the Big Island cacao industry, which the festival caters to perfectly, Beeby said.

“We support up and coming culinary students and current industry leads to foster relationships that will help retain talent here in this industry,” she said. “We help educate farmers here and make education and networking with others easy and accessible.”

On Saturday, in-person chef demonstrations will delight festival-goers from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.:

  • 9:30 to 10:15 a.m.: “Discover the Flavor Profiles of Chocolate — A Unique Chocolate Tasting” by pastry chef Alicia Boada, who leads the North American team for Max Felchlin AG, a producer of fine Grand Cru Swiss chocolates and couvertures headquartered in Schwyz, Switzerland.
  • 10:30 a.m. to noon: “Creating an Artistic Chocolate Showpiece” by Tréand with The Pastry School.
  • 12:15 to 1:45 p.m.: “How to Use Cacao Beans to Create Desserts and Sampling” by chef Bruce Trouyet, executive pastry chef at Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi and Ko‘ele Lodge.

There’s also the Best Fermented Bean Contest, open to any Hawai‘i cacao grower who wants to vie for the “Best Hawai‘i Cacao” award. To participate or for more information, contact the festival at

And don’t forget the silent auction, which is currently underway. Proceeds go toward the festival’s nonprofit beneficiaries and cacao education.

The sweetest and most savory event of the year culminates from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday with the 2023 Gala.

Those who attend will get unlimited tastings from about 20 culinary booths featuring tasty savory and sweet chocolate-inspired treats from regular participants such as The Fairmont Orchid, Kona Grill House, Four Seasons, Hilton, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Waialua Estate Coffee & Chocolate and Cocoa Outlet — with its 5-foot chocolate fountain — along with some newcomers, including host Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Kuleana Rum Works, Kona Beach Grill and Pregel.

Some highlights of the mouthwatering morsels on the menu include bacon-wrapped dates drizzled with chocolate from Kuleana Rum Works, lobster crab cakes from Kona Grill House, brisket from Kona Beach Hotel, black mole and pork confit steamed buns and black garlic puree and ancho chile from Kona Village Resort and banana lumpia with powdered sugar and cocoa-dusted Tahitian vanilla ice cream from festival host Marriott.


There also will be unlimited beer, wine and spritzers; entertainment from DJ Eric Ching of Lightning FX 808, Doug Johnson and his vibraphone and a performance by Kona Dance and Performing Arts; dancing; a pop-up photo booth; and more in the resort’s ballroom and courtyard. Ola Brew also created a specialty chocolate beer just for the festival, using Hawaiian cacao nibs.

There’s something for everyone looking to get their chocolate fix and support the island’s cacao industry during the festival.

“Depending on what event experience you are attending, you are going to find people who care about our cacao industry that support local businesses, and it will definitely always be a tasty affair,” Beeby said. “Honestly, the whole event is just a fun time.”

Tickets are still available, but don’t wait. Just like in year’s past, they’re selling out fast. As of about 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, there were just five tickets left for Saturday’s chocolate demonstrations and the amount of tickets for other events also were waning.

To purchase tickets for this year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival, click here. For more information, visit the festival’s website. You can also follow the festival @BIChocoFest on social media.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at
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