*This post originally ran September 10th, 2017 and has been reposted due to site maintenance.
This year one of my personal favorite chocolate festivals invited us to "Step Right up to the Greatest Chocolate on Earth." That's a slightly cheesy but not overly confident statement. Some of the finest chocolate creations from some of the most respected names in the industry were available to taste and purchase. Every year the event brings something a little different, but it's a sure thing that there is something for everyone. In a good way, it's normal to feel like the biggest kid in the room.
*If you missed the festival, then hopefully something chocolate is within your reach to make reading this less torturous.
A Weekend of Chocolate
Embracing the circus theme, the festival opened Friday night with carnival games, circus themed food and drinks, and even a chocolate cake walk that featured elaborate cakes from local pastry chefs and bakeries.
Saturday was the busiest day of the festival, also known as the 'Main Event'. The name says it all. Whether it was the sample filled vendor booths, educational lectures, live culinary demos, or an author signing, you had to plan carefully to make the most of the day. Similar to a music festival, you could be enjoying one activity, and knowingly missing another that is equally engaging.
Sunday slowed down for a series of workshops, including Bean to Bar Making Workshop with Ben rasmussen of Potomac Chocolate and Troy Easton of Sublime Chocolate, The History of Chocolate: Tasting from Ancient to Modern Times with Carla Martin, Tasting Chocolate like a Judge: the Best of the Best with Adrienne Newman (Madame Cocoa), and a Chocolate Pastry Workshop: Ganache and Beyond with Zach Townsend, local Dallas pastry legend.
With so much going on, I asked some seasoned personalities behind the Dallas chocolate scene what they looked forward to most this year. Here is what they said:
"The opportunity for people to meet each other, and experiencing the festival in a new space this year." —Sander Wolf, Founder of the Dallas Chocolate Festival
"The new space" —Adrienne Newman, AKA Madame Cocoa, Master of Ceremonies
"I am excited about the breadth of the people that are coming. Just the breadth of all of it. You can have bon bons, you can have bean to bar, you can have cakes— all of it is gonna be great." —Emily Mantooth
And Then I asked some folks new to Dallas what they looked forward to most:
"There's going to be an amazing amount of people, I'm so excited. Getting to know more of our fellow chocolate and pastry people in the city." —Ashleigh Wright, Executive Pastry Chef
"As a huge chocolate lover myself, I want to taste as many of the bon bons as I possibly can and pour them into my purse." —Megan Stookey, Pastry Chef
So, other than chocolate itself, what did I enjoy most?
At the Dallas Chocolate Festival it's not unusual to discover your new favorite chocolate creation, and simultaneously meet the maker behind it. This may be true at other events, but this festival is organized in a way that creates an intimate experience as much as possible, despite the large crowd it draws. I enjoyed meeting so many new people this year!
Also, I anticipated the opportunity to help educate fellow chocolate lovers. This year I was scheduled to give a talk titled "Breaking Down the Chocolate Wall." The talk I had prepared was essentially a breakdown of all the categories, labels, and certifications found on chocolate products in a retail environment (and why they aren't on some of the best products).
Fitting the circus theme, I had some car trouble on my way to Dallas from Austin the morning of the festival.
Long story short: I informed the founder I was running late just in case I didn't make it on time (which I didn't). From a rural gas station/McDonald's wifi spot, I emailed my slides to a friend who graciously agreed to cover my talk last minute. 45 minutes counting down to showtime to be exact.
*Considering that the event was at the F.I.G. (Fashion Insititue Gallery), my fashionably late arrival was technically on time.
Romi to the Rescue
I first met Professor Romi Burks at my very first Dallas Chocolate Festival in 2014, at the very first bean to bar chocolate making workshop ever hosted by the festival—and in Dallas for that matter. It was literally history and chocolate in the making. Attending that workshop is one of my fondest chocolate memories. I'd also heard her speak before, so I had confidence in her knowledge and abilities. Ultimately, it was a compliment that she didn't throw away my slides altogether. Romi, you rock!
The Show Must Go On
As much as I was looking forward to this, I was ok handing off my hard work to someone else in this case. Why? It's not about me. It's about educating others.
*Before going any further, I want to clarify that my original presentation was not purely the final presentation given, and that I was still credited for my research. Presented by Romi Burks, the presentation given consisted of a combination of my slides and some Romi incorporated from her past presentations. Some slides were cut to make this talk as clear for her as possible. Revision was our friend. I can only imagine how random some of my slides appeared to her.
The Suspense Continues
What now? No emergency. Just an observation.
When I caught up with Romi, she mentioned there was a transitional element of suspense. She explained that between slides there is a dramatic pause that is normally experienced by the audience, but because this was on the fly each pause was dramatic for her too.
Despite level of experience, stepping in for someone last minute can be daunting. It wasn't ideal, but I like to think it turned out for the best. Two heads are better than one. For stepping up like that, I'm forever grateful. Thank you Romi!
*Just a side note- Similarly, my favorite sketch series from Saturday Night Live deliberately changed the cue cards for the live show to make the sketch feel less rehearsed and more lively. The actor broke character so much that covering his face with his hands to hide his laughter became a trait of the character. At your own risk, Google Stefon.
The Question Everyone is Asking: What's in Store for 2018?
Well, we have to wait until 2018 to see. Until then, tell me, what would your dream weekend of chocolate be?