Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 |
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Culinary entries from Maui and the Big Isle were tapped winners at Saturday’s Big Island Chocolate Festival gala. A sold-out crowd of 600 attendees sprawled inside and out of the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel for the sixth annual fundraiser to benefit four island nonprofits.
Gala winners were Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Savory, Chef Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate Company for Best Plated Dessert, Chef Eddie Enojardo of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Bonbon and Michelle Yamaguchi of Wailua Estate for Best Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.
People’s Choice Awards went to Chef Alan Heap of Huggo’s for Best Savory and Guittard for Best Sweet. In the farm awards division, Gini Choobua of Likao Kula Farm earned Best Cacao while J. Bennett of Nine Fine Mynahs took Best Criollo.
Six high school culinary teams participated in the gala with Keaau High School winning first, followed by Waiakea in second and Konawaena in third. Three students earning culinary scholarships were Hannah Norman and Mina Acosta-Cabamungan of Waiakea and Rhoma Dai of Keaau.
For Friday’s college competition, UH-Maui College took first and second while UH-Palamanui came in third. Because of a mix up in the judging process, the incorrect winners were named during the gala and the judges later made the correction.
The team of judges for the various competitions were Chef Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate Company, Chef Alicia Boada of Cacao Barry, Paul Picton of Maverick Chocolate, Chef Elizabeth McDonald of B3 a Beach Bunny Bakery, Chef Ricky DeBoer of The Fairmont, Kea Lani; Chef Yoshikazu Kizu of Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Chef Teresa Shurilla of UH-Maui College, Chefs Connor Butler and Frank Kramm of the Kona Butcher Shop, Chef Krista Garcia of UH-Maui College, Chef Stephane Treand, Nat Bletter, Neal Campbell, Weston Yap, Paul Picton, Farsheed Bonakdar and Chef Bruce Trouyet of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.
The real winners of the annual festival are the four beneficiaries: the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Association, Kona Dance and Performing Arts, Kona Pacific Public Charter School and Waimea Country School’s Na Keiki Aloha Aina.
Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, the Big Island Chocolate Festival not only heralds Hawaii’s growing cacao industry, but also the professional and student 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.
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