About Town: 04-30-19

  • Top three winning teams in the college culinary competition were, from left: third place UH-Palamanui students Lily Frazier and Thomas Elarco, second place UH-Maui's Bristol Anae and Tiffany Figeroa, and first place UH-Maui's Danielle Sulliban and Marion Sidon. (Lori Meena/Courtesy Photo)
  • Professional winners at the 2019 Big Island Festival gala were, from left: Anna Hohenberger of Puna Chocolate Company, Mike Winder of Loko Wraps, Ken Melrose of Primavera Farm, Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and Michelle Yamaguchi of Waialua Estate Chocolate (Kealia Farms not pictured). Farsheed Bonakdar of the Kona Cacao Association (third from right) presented winners with their awards. (Lori Meena/Courtesy Photo)

Big Island Chocolate Festival names winners

A sold-out crowd of 700 attendees sprawled both inside and out of the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort Saturday for the eighth annual Big Island Chocolate Festival gala to benefit seven island nonprofits.


Creations by chefs, chocolatiers and culinary students were critiqued on taste, texture, appearance and creativity by a team of celebrity judges at competitions during the annual two-day festival.

Heading the list of culinary winners were event newcomers Mike Winder of Kailua-Kona’s Loko Wraps for Best Savory, who offered a vegan dish; and Anna Hohenberger of Puna Chocolate Company for Best Plated Dessert. Pastry chef Kalani Garcia of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai took Best Bonbon while Michelle Yamaguchi of Oahu’s Waialua Estate Chocolate won Best Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.

Those who best dazzled the crowd with their creations earned the People’s Choice Awards: Chef Dayne Tanabe of Hilton Waikoloa Village for Best Savory and pastry chef Daniel Sampson of the Fairmont Orchid for Best Sweet.

In the cacao bean divisions, Ken Melrose of Primavera Farm bested 13 other entries for the Best Cacao Bean while Kealia Ranch earned Best Criollo Bean.

In addition, four Hawaii Island high school culinary teams vied for People’s Choice Awards Saturday night. Kealakehe High culinarians took top honors for both savory and sweet offerings, a dual repeat winner from last year.

For Friday’s college competition, seven, two-person teams from Hawaii Community College-Palamanui and UH-Maui College vied in a timed dessert competition that incorporated chocolate. Winners included Marion Sidon and Daniele Sulliban of Maui, Bristol Anae and Tiffany Figeroa of Maui, and Thomas Elarco and Lily Frazier of Palamanui.

Info: Visit www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com for updates on next year’s event.

RISE Project hosting fundraiser

The RISE Project, a nonprofit organization committed to helping women overcome personal adversity and find resilience through education and self-development, is hosting a fundraising White Party Fashion Soirée on Saturday.

“We aim to create a tight-knit community of resilient and empowered women and celebrate women who are not just successful but also giving to other women in this community,” said Noella Callejo, executive director of The RISE Project in a press release. “There are many resources for young women to pursue goals coming out of high school, but many women in later chapters of life are recharting the course of their future. We want to support these women being forged through adversity and encourage them to not only survive, but thrive— professionally, mentally, emotionally and physically.”

The scholarship will be presented to Stephany Hayes, a single mom of two who began college at 43-years-old in 2017. Hayes lost her brother to a motorcycle accident in 2007 that involved alcohol and she has since become an active volunteer and public speaker for Mother’s Agains Drunk Driving (MADD). She was a victim advocate and also worked with the DARE program and Big Island Substance Abuse Council. MADD recognized her with the volunteer of the year award in 2015. Hayes is currently working on a liberal arts degree from Hawaii Community College-Palamanui with plans for a master’s degree in education and a career as a middle school social studies teacher.

The RISE Project also collaborates with local businesses to host events for women and offer personal development forums.


The board of directors for The RISE Project is formed entirely of women. Most of them were born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii and half of the directors hold doctorate degrees.

Info: For more information about the The RISE Project, to apply, or donate visit theriseprojecthawaii.com/scholarship.

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