The Palamanui Palate: Culinary students receive an education in chocolate from masters of the craft

  • Students from the culinary arts program at Hawaii Community College — Palamanui will participate in the Big Island Chocolate Festival this weekend. (Hawaii Community College — Palamanui/Courtesy Photo)

It takes a village to raise a chef. Fortunately for Hawaii Community College – Palamanui, our “village” on the Kona coast is home to world-class culinary artists, who are incredibly generous with their time and talent and are willing to coach our students.

The preparations for the upcoming Big Island Chocolate Festival happening Friday and Saturday highlight this spirit of kauhale (Hawaiian village). Every year about this time students practice and prepare for the annual chocolate competition that is judged by some of the best chocolatiers in the world.


This year, students have been preparing by working side by side with executive pastry chef Kalani Garcia of the Four Seasons Hualalai, executive pastry chef Daniel Sampson of the Fairmont Orchid, and Stephen Arakaki, who is the executive pastry chef and owner of Desserts Hawaii.

Chef Patti Kimball, president of the ACF Kona-Kohala Chefs Association, and our patisserie chef instructor Fernand Guiot have also been a huge help, assisting with supplies and special equipment procurement, recipe conversion, ideas, advice and insights from prior competitions. They also have assisted students with a booklet that consists of the students’ biographies, recipes, how they came up with the dish, plating diagrams and a picture of the plated outcome.

These are five excellent chefs with approximately 90 years of industry experience helping six students. We are truly blessed and highly favored that they are willing to mentor the next generation!

There has already been an extremely great outcome prior to the competition. Two students received job offers working at a luxury resort on the Kona-Kohala coast. Coincidence? I think not.

The College Student Competition portion of the Big Island Chocolate Festival is free. You can come check it out 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel Ballroom. Visit for tickets and for more information about the festival.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, this is a great event that benefits cacao farmers and local community organizations. I hope to see you there.

Here are two delicious chocolate recipes from Steven Arakaki of Desserts Hawaii. Enjoy!

Decadent Hot Chocolate


12 ounces half and half

5 ounces white chocolate

2 ounces dark chocolate

2 tablespoon cocoa powder

To prepare:

Heat half and half in a pot on medium heat. Place chocolates and cocoa powder in a bowl. When cream comes to a boil, pour over chocolate. Let it sit for a minute. Stir well with a whip until chocolate is completely melted. Serve with your favorite dessert or cookies. If you want to be adventurous, add a splash of your favorite liqueur.

Chocolate Sorbet


1 quart water

14 ounces sugar

3.5 ounces cocoa powder

12 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces milk chocolate

1 ounce coffee extract (optional)

To prepare:


Combine the water, sugar and cocoa powder in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat off. Add the chocolates and coffee extract to the cocoa mixture. Stir well to make sure chocolate is completely melted. Strain and chill over ice. Refrigerate overnight. Spin in ice cream machine to manufacturer’s specification.

Paul Heerlein, CCE, CCC is an associate professor of Culinary Arts at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui in Kona and on the board of the American Culinary Federation Kona-Kohala Chefs Association.

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