Festival Of Chocolate Experience

I was recently invited to The Festival of Chocolate in Palm Beach to teach and demonstrate because I am the youngest certified professional chocolatier in the country, and they were hoping I would inspire other young adults to enter the pastry and chocolate world.  Edgar and Aileen, festival producers, asked me to build a chocolate car for their raffle because the local Fiat dealership was one of their main sponsors.  Not so hard right?  Then they told me they wanted it 3 feet long and for me to carve and decorate it in the 5 hours the festival was open the first day, and in the middle of the vendor hall.  Now that sounded a little more challenging… But it sounded like fun and a good experience so I told them no problem!  We started preparing a few weeks before the festival by making all the sheets of rice cereal treats to form the car base (about 90 pounds in all).  They wanted me to start with a big chocolate block that I carve throughout the day, so we covered it in chocolate fondant.  We are very thankful to Satin Ice Fine Foods for donating all of the fondant we needed to cover the car and for my class the next day, it worked beautifully!  Once the festival started we got to work carving the body of the car.  Our table was right in front of the real ‘chocolate’ colored Fiat, so that helped us a lot with the shapes that needed to be formed!  It took us until about 1:00 o’clock.  I also worked on the detailed parts that needed to be dry (Mirrors, tires, etc.).  All day we had people come up to fill out a ticket to win our chocolate Fiat, everyone was very excited! Also throughout the day many of the people involved in the festival came over to see the car and introduced themselves.  We met many of the vendors, culinary students that were volunteering, a few of the contestants in the chocolate and cake showpiece challenges, and even Ewald Notter, one of the icons of the sugar world came over.  When I asked about his classes he gave me the best compliment I could ask for, that I was too advanced to take his classes.

Meanwhile across the vendor hall from us they had the chocolate showpiece competition.  They had only 2 hours to complete a ‘fall” themed showpiece completely out of chocolate.  There were four contestants and each was allowed one assistant.  I only got to go see them at the end with being busy with the car but the winning piece had fall leaves, hand made pinecones, swirls, and a beautiful face all attached to a tall pillar.  Congratulations to all the contestants for such beautiful work!

The vendor hall consisted of over 25 vendors selling delicious chocolates and confections on both days.  They also had a ‘Chocolate Museum’ with 6’+ tall chocolates sculptures with chocolate facts on them.  There were stages in the front and back of the hall hosting Brownie Bingo, ice cream eating and cookie stacking contests, and even a chocolate game show (one of my favorite events they hosted).   There was tons too do for kids including over 5 stations to make chocolate jewelry, play dough, and lip balm.  Although we didn’t have too much time the first day to walk through the vendor hall we did take small breaks to check it all out!

At about 1:30 pm the car was ready to be iced and covered in fondant.  Most of the details that could be done ahead of time were finished and drying.  It took 65 lbs of fondant to completely cover the car.  Once the final coat of fondant was on it really started to take form.  Now all we had to do was put all of the accents on.  We added the fondant windshield and windows, tires, door handles, edible logos and license plate, isomalt head/tail lights, and last but not least the silver isomalt mirrors and TA DA! It was a car!  With some help from our good friend Chef Stephanie Steliga, family, and even the producers’ daughter, Sophie, we finished at just about closing time.  Once it was completely finished, the winning name was pulled out of the entry box and the winner of our chocolate car was called.  Sadly the winner had left the festival, and they arranged to pick it up at the Fiat dealership, so we didn’t get to meet them, but I heard that the name drawn was an 11 year old boy and he was VERY excited to hear the chocolate and rice cereal car was now his! By the end of the day we were all tired but very happy with our work and looking forward to the next day!

On Sunday morning we got to the festival at 10:00 am to go check on our car and bring all our equipment in for my demonstration and class that day.  We had a few minutes to walk around and see all the vendors before my demo at 12 so we went around and tried all the samples and bought presents for our friends back home and of course ourselves.  Everyone’s chocolates were very yummy and equally attractive.  After what seemed like a very short time in the vendor hall it was time for my demo.  I demonstrated chocolate ganache filled cupcakes to decorate a blown and pulled sugar centerpiece.  My room was packed and I had tons of fun! After my demo and a little more time in the vendor hall I had to run over to my class.  I taught how to make lifelike chocolate fondant seashells using molds that you create yourself.  All of my students walked out with beautiful seashells and sand dollars and I think everyone really enjoyed it, I know I did!  A thank you to Dominic at Make Your Own Molds for providing the mold putty for us!  After my last class we met up with the Palm Beach Cake Club and had a great time walking around and seeing all of the wonderful cakes in the wedding cake competition they had that day.  Just like the chocolate showpiece competition the day before they only had two hours to complete their cakes, also with a fall theme.  They all came out great, except one was on the verge of falling over.  We felt so bad for the decorator!

We had time to visit two demos that day, Pumpkin truffles by Erika Davis from ‘Top Chef’ and Mexican Hot Chocolate by Bernie Schaked.   They were both very well done and had the most delicious samples!

All in All the Festival of Chocolate was a successful event to showcase independent chocolate and pastry shops.  I am so glad I got to be a part of it! We are counting down the days until the next Festival of Chocolate in Tampa in January!  http://festivalofchocolate.com/

Keep Life Sweet!