In five short years the annual Big Island Chocolate Festival has become one of the “must attend” food events of the year in West Hawaii. It’s easy to see why. Happening May 13-14 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and sites across the westside, the Big Island Chocolate Festival features cooking demonstrations by some of the finest chocolatiers in the world, farm tours, and the piece de resistance—a gala that’s a feast for the senses.
The Chocolate Festival’s Gala at Hapuna
Most people focus on the Chocolate Festival’s gala, which will be held Saturday, May 14 from 5:30 – 9 p.m. Top chefs, chocolatiers, and confectioners from across the country offer a mouth-watering array of sweet and savory food creations. But that’s not all; there will also be beverage purveyors creating signature cocktails, plus fine wines and handcrafted ales on tap.
This year, the Festival honors the centennial of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with the theme, “Lavalicious-A Chocolate Salute to the 100th Birthday of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.” Gala culinary stations will be judged on their depiction of the popular park and judged by Cindy Orlando, HVNP superintendent. Also, award-winning Chef Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate Company will sculpt one of the largest volcanoes ever created in fine chocolate!
Add in live entertainment and a silent auction and you’ll see why the Chocolate Festival is so popular.
Plus, you can have fun knowing that it’s all for a good cause. Sponsored by the Kona Cacao Association (KCA), festival proceeds benefit the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Assn./University of Hawai‘i endowment fund for the culinary program at Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui in West Hawaii and programs at Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua.
Local Farm Tours
The Big Island Chocolate Festival also provides opportunities to learn about cooking as well as local agriculture. For instance on Friday, May 13, the Festival offers a guided plantation tour at Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory in Keauhou from 11 a.m. to noon. You can visit the nation’s first tree-to-bar chocolate operation to see cacao growing on trees and how it’s processed into chocolate. This chocolate is sought after the world over and is grown and made right here on the Big Island!
Cooking Demonstrations and Tastings
On Saturday, May 14, at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel there will be several cooking demonstration and tasting, including one on “How to Make An Elegant Dessert Full of Textures,” from 10:45-11:45 a.m. Derek Poirier, Valrhona, an international pastry competitor, will provide pointers on how to create desserts with milk chocolate and hazelnuts.
Tickets and More Information
Whether you’re interested in learning more about growing cacao, cooking with chocolate or just tasting yummy food, you’ll want to check out this year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival.
Pre-sale gala admission is $75 or $100 at the door. Choice of unlimited beer, wine and two specialty cocktails is also included in the ticket price. Find ticket info, including details on the event’s May 13-14 agricultural activities and culinary demonstrations, at www.BigIslandChocolateFestival.com or phone (808) 324-6100.
Chocolate sculpting photo credit: Denise Laitinen