Once a year, in the beginning of summer, chocolate makers from all over flock to the east coast. NYC host events like the Fancy Food Show, the Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference, and the International Chocolate Awards. All of these events are crammed together, and while valuable, we and a few others noticed there is always something missing...FUN. So what did we do? We created the 1st Annual Chocolate Makers Summer Camp, A.K.A. Funconference.
We kicked off this fun weekend with a brunch and tour of our flagship factory right here in the Catskills. Chocolate makers and cacao sourcers traveled from as far reaching places as San Francisco, Brazil, and Sweden. We snacked on textbook perfect pastries from the Culinary Institute of America, and mixed and mingled over cacao pulp mimosas. We then climbed into some vans and carpools and headed to camp!
What does one do at a chocolate makers summer camp you may be asking yourself? Well, it turns out a lot of the same stuff you might have done when you went away to summer camp as a kid. Paddle boating, some light archery, swimming, and of course, eating a LOT of chocolate. Which brings us to what most attendees believe was the star of the whole trip; the s'mores. Dandelion Chocolate brought sheets of homemade fluffy marshmallows, our production team at Fruition made graham crackers from scratch, and BYOC (bring your own chocolate). Seriously, just imagine roasting those marshmallows over a bonfire with your favorite craft chocolate. We admit it. Some of us still dream about these s'mores in our sleep.
On the second day of camp, the 1st ever Maker’s Cup was held. Chocolate makers submitted various chocolates in generic molds, and they were tasted and critiqued anonymously. No one knew who made what, or had any origin info that let on who might have made it. It was just a chance for makers to receive honest feedback from others in the industry. There was even a mystery bean category, where some makers received beans from Meridian Cacao Company and were instructed to make a dark chocolate within a percentage range. When the mystery was revealed, we learned that it was a blend of four different origins. It was very fun making the batch of chocolate trying to guess what origin the beans were from!
Sadly, summer camp had to come to an end. We all said our goodbyes to our new and old chocolate friends and headed down to NYC. Most attended FCIA, a chocolate industry conference for networking and very informative talks, and then Fancy Food Show, a speciality food trade show.
The series of events ended with the Americas and Asia round of the International Chocolate Awards in Hoboken, graciously hosted by Maricel Presilla at her restaurant, Cucharamama. Fruition took home two golds for our Brown Butter Milk Chocolate & Corazon de Dahlia Milk Chocolate Quinoa Crunch bar. We won silvers for Wild Bolivia, Maranon Canyon Dark Milk, Hudson Valley Bourbon Dark Milk, Dark Milk with Flor de Sal, and Strawberries and Cream.
All in all, a pretty great week to be into cacao and chocolate!