WAIKOLOA, HAWAI‘I ISLAND—A sold-out crowd of 400 attendees sprawled both inside and out
of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa Saturday for the 10th Big Island Chocolate Festival
Creations by chefs, chocolatiers and culinary students were critiqued on taste, texture,
appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges during two days of competitions.
Earning two awards was event newcomer Kona Village Resort with Chef Helen Hong winning
Best Bonbon and Chef Victor Palma tapped Best Savory in a tie with Chef Daniel Sampson of the
Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai earned two awards with Chef Alyssa
Tokumura taking Best Plated Dessert and Chef Kalani Garcia earning Best Decorated Booth.
Those who dazzled the crowd with their creations earned the People’s Choice Awards: Sampson
took Best Savory while Hong earned Best Sweet. Waialua Chocolate Factory was tapped Best
Bean to Bar and new competitor Mapele Fields of Oahu was named Best Cacao Bean from a
field of 11 entries.
“This year’s event was especially rewarding as we could return to our pre-COVID format

with multiple culinary booths and more participants using and enjoying chocolate,” said

Farsheed Bonakdar, president of the Kona Cacao Association, which puts on the BICF.

For Friday’s college culinary competition, six, two-person teams from Oahu and Maui had their
chocolate creations evaluated by professional chefs. Earning first place was Kau’ilani
Kekamahilina’iOkealoha Garso-Steward and Briana Jade Valentin of University of Hawaii-Maui
College while Derin Pascual and Alec Parker of Leeward Community College earned second and
Ciera Lynn Shugart and Angeline Stone of Kapiolani Community College took third.
Chefs judging the various competitions hailed from throughout the state and Mainland: James
Beard winner and new island resident Vitaly Paley, Michael Moorhouse of Mauna Kea Beach
Hotel Autograph Collection, Stephane Treand of The Pastry School, Alicia Boada of Felchin,
Bruce Trouyet of Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Sean Meyer of Kona Pasta Co. and Richard
Polhemus of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Professional culinary winners at the 2023 Big Island Chocolate Festival were from left: Kalani
Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Daniel Sampson of Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, Victor
Palma of Kona Village Resort, Alyssa Tokumura of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Helen Hong of
Kona Village Resort, Michelle Yamaguchi of Waialua Chocolate Factory and (Ben-not pictured)
and Laura Field of Mapele Fields.

The real winners of the annual festival are the 2023 beneficiaries: Hawaii college culinary
programs, Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture, Kona Dance & Performing Arts and Keahole
Center for Sustainability. In addition to last night’s decadent gala, the festival offered a full lineup of chocolate-industry educational activities from fermenting cacao beans to tempering chocolate and tasting the flavor profiles of chocolate couvertures.

Top three winning teams in the college culinary competition were from left: third place Kapiolani
Community College students Ciera Lynn Shugart and Angeline Stone, first place UH-Maui’s
Kau’ilani Kekamahilina’iOkealoha Garso-Steward and Briana Jade Valentin and second place
Leeward Community College’s Derin Pascual and Alec Parker.

Mahalo to 2023 BICF Sponsors: Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Bureau, Guittard Chocolate Company, PreGel, Soullutions Business Coaching and Consulting, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, & Spa, Waialua Chocolate Factory, Homes & Chocolate Team Keller Williams Realty, Cacao-Trace, Felchlin Switzerland, Cocoa Outlet, Puratos Food Innovation, Tastes of Aloha, Valrhona, Chef Rubber, Original Hawaiian Chocolate, IifiGourmet Provisions, Ola Brew, Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits of Hawaii, Kona Brewing Co., Kuleana Rum Works, Sysco, Lava Rock Realty, Primavera Farm Kona Cacao, Stephen Grant Green Architect and Aloha Basket & Balloons.