Culinary students kick off the Big Island Chocolate Festival with competition

  • Palamanui culinary student Larrianne Diane Lagpacan mixes her creation for the Big Island Chocolate Festival College Student Competition Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Palamanui Culinary students Thomas Elarco and Lily Frazier layer their creation at the Big Island Chocolate Festival College Student Competition Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Palamanui Culinary students Ayden Belanio and Alma Gorali prepare their Chocolate Temptation at the Big Island Chocolate Festival College Student Competition Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Palamanui culinary students Larrianne Diane Lagpacan, left, and Alice Petriyenko prepare lilikoi dragonfruit jam. (

  • Palamanui culinary student Thomas Elarco prepares Dark Chocolate Joconde at the Big Island Chocolate Festival College Student Competition Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Palamanui Culinary students, clockwise from lower left — Larrianne Diane Lagpacan, Thomas Elarco, Lily Frazier, Alma Gorali and Ayden Belanio — create their entries in the Big Island Chocolate Festival College Student Competition Friday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KOHALA COAST — Thomas Elarco and Lily Frazier have spent the past few months at Hawaii Community College — Palamanui creating a decadent slate of food that’s perfect for a chocolate festival.

On the menu: Chocolate joconde, white chocolate mousse, Waimea strawberry and ume jam, lilikoi chocolate arare crumble, white chocolate ganache, and ume whipped cream.

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The two culinary arts students put those original recipes to the test Friday, baking up a storm of chocolate treats for the student competition at this year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival.

“We wanted to participate because we are really interested in baking, and our baking chef, chef Fernand (Guiot), he taught us a lot,” Elarco said. “We wanted to show him and everybody what we’re capable of with the new techniques he’s taught us.”

The festival at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort this week was hosting seven teams of second-year culinary students from Hawaii Community College — Palamanui and University of Hawaii Maui College. The teams were competing for bragging rights of having the skills to make the best set of chocolate desserts.

The food was baked and judged Friday, with the results to be announced tonight at the Big Island Chocolate Festival gala.

“The competition forces them to focus in on the details of what’s required and to elevate their skills to the next level,” said Patti Kimball, president of the American Culinary Federation Kona-Kohala Chefs Association. “We’re not making a Suzy Homemaker cake here and putting frosting on it. You have to have all the components to create a certain dessert.”

The Palamanui students were mentored for the competition by Four Seasons Hualalai executive pastry chef Kalani Garcia, Fairmont Orchid executive pastry chef Daniel Sampson, and Desserts Hawaii owner and executive pastry chef Stephen Arakaki.

“Our students volunteered to come to school an extra day a week,” Kimball said. “This is not a class here. They spent the extra Mondays since Jan. 7 doing this, and the chefs that were their mentors came every Monday to work with them.”

The Maui students have bigger stakes in the competition than their Palamanui counterparts. The students will be judged by their professors as well as the judges, as the competition is part of their final for their pastry class.

“We come to the festival every year, and it’s always a great experience,” Tiffani Figeroa said.

Also on the menu Friday for the Big Island Chocolate Festival, now in its eighth edition, was three seminars presented by cacao farmers and a tequila and chocolate pairing to finish the night.

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The festival ends today with the gala, from 5-9 p.m. Tickets were available as of Friday afternoon for $89. Proceeds from the tickets to the festival will benefit eight local organizations.

Info: Tickets to the Big Island Chocolate Festival gala can be purchased at https://bigislandchocolatefestival.com/tickets.

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