Craving chocolate? Well, we know a place where you can get your fill–experiencing it with all your senses! It’s the 7th Annual For the Love of Chocolate Gala at The Merchandise Mart In Chicago.
The event is a bazaar of gourmet tastings, a trendy bar, an engaging performance, a daring fashion show, and an exuberant dance party, all joined together for a remarkable cause (see a photo from 2011, above). For the Love of Chocolate Scholarship Foundation benefits dedicated students of the pastry arts by awarding them scholarships to attend The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago; over its seven years, their gala has become known as one of the best foodie events of the year. With more than 75 participating sweet and savory chefs, 15 opens bars, and a full-food fashion show, this year’s gala expects to draw over 1,500 guests on February 25th.
The event spans the entire first floor of the historic Merchandise Mart, one of the largest buildings in the world. In addition to the gourmet wonderland for which the event is known, the space’s six-themed areas will be peppered with musicians, DJs, dance floors, and performances by Redmoon Theater representing Cocoa Venetian Carnival, Sweet as Sin, Cocoa Candy Land, the Confectiatory, Cocoa Sutra, and the Chocolate Spa. The guests will have a have their fill of Chicago’s best cuisine, a chance to let loose on the dance floor, and even a place to relax when it’s time to kick up their high heels.
Enticing tastings from culinary and pastry greats like Rick Bayless of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, Paul Kahan of Blackbird, Meg Galus of NoMi, Patrick Fahy of Cafes des Architectes and more will be paired with a myriad of other highlights. The event’s centerpieces are an edible fashion show featuring over 30 designs made from a variety of foodstuffs and a 9.5’ X 6’ X 5’ replica of Chicago’s Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, fondly known as “The Bean,” covered in Jelly Belly® Jelly Beans and Chocolate Dips® by over 100 students of After School Matters.
After admiring these works of art, guests will have the chance to meet celebrity pastry chefs, Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Desserts and frequent Food Network Challenge emcee; Johnny Iuzzini, former Pastry Chef of Jean-Georges and judge of Top Chef: Just Desserts; and Chris Hanmer of The School of Pastry Design and winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 2.
“The French Pastry School gives students the tools and education they need to make an impact in the pastry world,” says Hanmer. “Without scholarships like For the Love of Chocolate, we run the risk of missing the next star pastry chef. As food lovers, it is our responsibility to give back and help people reach their culinary dreams.”
In 2011, thanks to the generosity of the foundation’s sponsors, alumni, guests, industry vendors and associates, the 6th annual gala raised more than $70,000. All of these funds were awarded as scholarships to students of The French Pastry School’s L’Art de la Pâtisserie and L’Art du Gâteau programs after a competitive application process. Scholarship recipients have gone on to work in leading pastry kitchens around the country as well as to open small businesses, making the world a sweeter place in which to live.
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