Jacques Torres, “Mr. Chocolate,” of New York City headlines an array of chocolate and cacao celebrities appearing at this year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival gala from May 1 to 3 at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii. All activities are open to the public.
The three-day festival offers a full lineup of chocolate from planting to plating: a Kona cacao farm tour, plus seminars, how-to culinary demonstrations and guided chocolate tastings. Other celebrity chocolatiers include Chef Donald Wressell of Guittard chocolate, Chef Vincent Bourdin of Valrhona Chocolate and cacao consultant Ed Seguine.
The 6-10 p.m. Saturday gala features Hawaii Island’s celebrated culinarians for a chocolate-inspired feast of savory and sweet treats. Returning favorites include the mole bar staffed by West Hawaii culinary students, a towering chocolate fountain complete with fresh fruits and macaroons, plus an array of bonbons.
The gala fun will showcase a chocolate sculpture using 40 pounds of chocolate, chocolate body painting, fine wines, chocolate-infused beer and the debut of a tasty new Bacardi Mango Fusion cocktail. Attendees can vote for the People’s Choice Award, dance the night away with Girls Nite Out! band with Yisa Var and bid for activities and merchandise at a silent auction.
Food Network star Torres and other chefs will judge the evening’s culinary creations and also give pre-gala seminars May 2-3. Attendees can also vote for the People’s Choice Award from a host of categories including mouth-watering bonbons.
Torres, who became the youngest pastry chef to earn the Best Craftsman in France medal for pastry, is the first artisan chocolatier to make his own chocolate starting from cocoa beans. Joining him is celebrity judge Vincent Bourdin of Singapore, a regional chef at Valrhona Chocolate and president of the Asia Pacific Pastry Cup Board. He is co-author of “Cooking with Chocolate.” Judging bean to bar “tastes” is cacao and chocolate tasting adviser Ed Seguine of Pennsylvania who has 30 years experience working with farmers and companies in developing cacaos.
Also serving as culinary station judges are Chef Heather Campbell of Kauai’s St. Regis Resort Princeville and Chef Rhonda Ashton-Chavez of the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.
In addition, a silent auction benefits the $150,000 “Equip the Kitchen” campaign for the future Hawaii Community College-Palamanui and the Waldorf-inspired Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua. The third annual festival is presented by the Kona Cacao Association, Inc.
Pre-sale gala tickets are $75 and $100 at the door. New this year is the VIP Fast Wine Pass with early event admission and personalized wine service. Seminar details and tickets for all activities are available online at www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com.