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Chocolate festival starts Thursday


Stephens Media

The Kona chocolate market is growing, and the Kona Cacao Association is highlighting the product at the Big Island Chocolate Festival this week.

“There is a lot of interest by all ranks of chocolatiers in Hawaiian cacao,” Farsheed Bonakdar, association president, said Monday. “The demand is huge. Our local farmers are basically selling everything they get their hands on.”

This is the second year for the festival, which kicks off Thursday evening at The Shops of Mauna Lani with a prelude event featuring food, chocolate and wine for $50, Bonakdar said. On Friday and Saturday, chefs, farmers and chocolate makers will present information on how to grow cacao, how to make chocolate truffles, how to make a chocolate pave cake and other topics. Chef David Brown of Kapiolani Community College, and Chef Stanton Ho, a chef consultant, will be featured in the Saturday demonstrations.

“The public will be really interested to learn how to do chocolate from bean to bar,” Bonakdar said.

A package ticket for three demonstrations costs $100. Individual demonstrations range from $25 to $55.

Also on Saturday, the public may attend, for free, a cooking competition between culinary students from Kona, Hilo and Maui. Bonakdar said the public may cheer on the student chefs, while judges from the mainland, Honolulu and Kauai rate the dishes and select a winner.

The big event is Saturday’s Evening Gala. Tickets for the gala are $75 in advance or $85 at the door. Running from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., the event features “sweet and savory chocolate creations prepared by top island chefs, chocolatiers and confectioners,” according to the website, Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite entries in several categories. Bump City will provide live entertainment. The evening includes a savory mole bar, prepared by Hawaii Community College culinary students, fine wine and hand-crafted ale tasting, chocolate body painting and a silent auction.

Chef Donald Wressell of Guittard Chocolate is the headline chef for the gala. Wressell will create a tropical-themed chocolate sculpture using 40 pounds of chocolate for the gala.

The festival is a fundraiser for the Hawaii Community College’s culinary program, which will be based out of the University of Hawaii Palamanui Campus. The program is in the midst of raising money to reach a $1 million goal to equip the kitchen classrooms. The festival also benefits Kona Pacific Charter School in Kealakekua.

Tickets are available online at, by calling 329-2522 or in person at Kailua Candy Co. and Kona Wine Market.

A chocolate farm tour will also be available. Tickets for the tour are available by calling 322-2626.

Email Erin Miller at


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