Culinary entries from across the state were tapped winners at last night’s Big Island Chocolate Festival. Chefs, chocolatiers and students were critiqued on taste, texture, appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges during the three-day festival.
Event host The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai’i was cited in three categories for best plated dessert, bean to bar and the People’s Choice award. The Hilton Waikoloa Village earned best savory while Madre Chocolate took top bonbons.
Likao Kula Farm of Holualoa bested 11 entries to win the inaugural cacao processing category.
“The processing of the cacao bean—its fermenting and drying—is an important step in the flavor and quality of chocolate and we’re happy our local growers competed in this new competition category,” said Farsheed Bonkadar, president of the Kona Cacao Association.
Culinary students from University of Hawai‘i-Maui College won the morning student competition besting second place Hawai‘i Community College-Hilo and third place Hawai‘i Community College-West Hawai‘i. Students prepared elaborate plated desserts using chocolate and were judged by the celebrity judges that later judged the evening’s gala entries.
Commenting on the competitions, Bonkadar added, “The caliber of entries continues to improve and it’s rewarding to see how both student and professional culinarians use chocolate in both sweet and savory recipes.”
Heading the team of judges for the two competitions were celebrity chefs Stanton Ho, Guittard’s Donald Wressell, Valrhona Chocolate’s Derek Poirier and Sam Choy of Keauhou’s Kai Lanai restaurant. Other team judges included Elizabeth McDonald of Maui’s B3 A Beach Bunny Bakery; Ricky DeBoer of The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui; Steven Arakaki of Kukio Golf & Beach Club; Chris Speere of UH-Maui College and Daniel Sampson of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i. Teresa Shurilla of UH-Maui College oversaw the judging.
The real winners of the fourth annual festival are two beneficiaries: the Equip the Kitchens campaign for the future Hawai’i Community College-Palamanui and Kona Pacific Public Charter School.
Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, the Big Island Chocolate Festival not only heralds Hawai’i’s growing cacao industry, but also the culinarians who masterfully create foods featuring chocolate.
In addition to last night’s gala, the three-day festival offered a full lineup of chocolate decadence from planting to plating: a Kona cacao farm tour, plus growing and processing seminars and how-to culinary demonstrations.
(Stay tuned for more photos!)