Culinary entries from Maui and the Big Isle were tapped winners at last night’s Big Island Chocolate Festival gala. A sold-out crowd of 600 attendees sprawled inside and out of the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
“Lavalicious-A Chocolate Salute to the 100th Birthday of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park” was the festival theme and the event gala sported booths decorated with sugary lava, chocolate volcanoes, orchids and faux flames. The culinary station by Sweet Eatz was judged “Best Decorated” by HVNP’s Cindy Orlando, park superintendent and Jessica Ferracane, public affairs specialist.
Chefs, chocolatiers and college students were critiqued on taste, texture, appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges at competitions during the two-day festival.
Winning the most culinary awards was Hilton Waikoloa Village led by Chef Dayne Tanabe for Best Savory and chef Anna Hohenberger’s Best Bonbon. The Hilton team also tied with Four Seasons Resort Hualalai for Best Sweet People’s Choice by Hilton Chef Eddie Enojardo and Hualalai’s Kalani Garcia.
Earning Best Plated Dessert was the Ke‘olu Bake Shop at Hualalai Resort and Huggo’s took home People’s Choice Savory. Other accolades were won by Madre Chocolate for Best Bean-to-Bar, Nine Fine Mynahs Farm for Best Cacao and Likao Kula for Best Criollo Bean.
The student team of Yi Song and Diana Maciel Hernandez of the University of Hawai‘i-Maui College took first place in the Friday student competition. Taking second place was Jolynn Len and Stella Rainville of Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui while third place went to Alicia Alcain and Tomi Salinger of Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui.
“Students performed at a really high level and we’re hoping to have more participation throughout the UH culinary programs next year,” said Teresa “Cheech” Shurilla, program coordinator for UH-Maui College. “We want to make it viable for all the schools to come and compete.”
Heading the team of chef judges for the two competitions were Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate Company, Derek Poirier of Valrohna Chocolate, Elizabeth McDonald of B3 a Beach Bunny Bakery, Ricky DeBoer of The Fairmont, Kea Lani; Steven Arakaki of Kukio Resort, Douglas Paul of Sodexo UH-Maui College and Shurilla. Pam Williams of Ecole Chocolat, Jacques Dahan of Michel Cluizel, chef Lincoln Carson, Yoshikazu Kizu of Ritz Carlton Kapalua, and Krista Garcia of Maui Community College, also were part of the judging team.
The real winners of the fifth annual festival are two beneficiaries: the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Assn./University of Hawai‘i endowment fund for the culinary program at Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui and programs at Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua.
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 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 by chocolate industry experts.
The Big Island Chocolate Festival is presented by the Kona Cacao Association, Inc. 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 2016 event sponsors Prova, Michel Cluizel, Republica Del Cacao, Valrohna USA, LUVA Real Estate-Lance Owens, Kona Auto Center, Dolphin Journeys, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, Amoretti, Barry Callebaut USA, Kokua Roofing, DHX, Cocoa Outlet, Kona Brewing Company, Young’s Market, The Wave 92 FM and Dole/Wailua Chocolate. For information, visit www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com. @BIChocoFest