LEWISTON — Hundreds filled the Green Ladle, home of Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s culinary arts program, Sunday afternoon to indulge in some of the best local chocolate creations while supporting Lewiston Middle School students.
Now in its fourth year, Chocolat has become both a showcase for local bakers and chocolatiers as well as an important fundraiser for the school.
According to Mike Courchesne, organizer and LMS French teacher, the event means about $4,000 for activities and transportation that fall outside the budget.
This year Rolly’s Diner took home the peoples’ choice award, Candy is Dandy, while Maine Gourmet Chocolates was judged tops for Decadent Display and the Chocoholic award went to Ella’s Chocolates.
Event Chairwoman Sloane Shervin said that the event picked up two new vendors this year but lost two due to the flu. Her fears that the loss would affect turnout were quickly eased as the dining room and adjacent conference room filled with hungry guests.
One of the judges, Katie Liguori, was a pastry instructor at the Green Ladle for 10 years. “There is some excellent chocolate out there,” Liguori said. “We judge on taste, texture and appearance.”
Having put on the event in the past, Liguori says she is content now to simply arrive, taste and judge.
While the event raises money for some students, for others it offers an opportunity to learn more about their craft.
“All of my Green Ladle students do the savory aspect here,” chef Dan Caron said, explaining that the idea is for people to sample some sweet before crossing the room for nachos and chicken wings to balance flavors. “Students arrive at 7 a.m. and serve about 400 guests 14 different appetizers throughout the day.”
Jessica Henson, the student head chef for the event and a Lewiston High School senior, was happy to be volunteering at the event, “It’s pretty awesome,” she said.
An aspiring pastry chef, Henson credits the Green Ladle for preparing her for college and her career beyond.
At each vendor table, volunteers checked boxes on guests’ cards. Nick Folster, an eighth-grader at Lewiston Middle School, worked a crowd in front of Maine Gourmet Chocolates, “Are you going to try one, sir? Did you know how you can get another free taste?”
“It’s great, I’ve got a lot of compliments today,” Folster, 13, said. “I like to see them smile.”
At the Central Maine Community College table, Molly Packard, a second-semester culinary arts student, piled cranberry, walnut and chocolate chip cookies on a child’s plate while her counterparts handed out hot chocolate mousse with homemade marshmallow, served in a miniature chocolate cup.
Rita Morin of Auburn and Paul Sadler of Lewiston filled their plates at the savory buffet to stem a sugar rush. It was the anniversary of their first date and, according to Sadler, the event’s proximity to Valentine’s Day made it a natural outing.
“It’s great seeing all the local vendors here,” Morin said. “You can’t even compare how much it would cost if you went out to sample all this on your own.” The couple already plan on coming back next year.
Rounding out the day’s festivities was the raffling of six large boxes filled with items donated by students’ families and given themes, such as Football, Taste of Italy and Night at the Movies, which included several DVDs and a DVD player.
Stephanie Bernachez of Maine Gourmet Chocolates offered up a toffee and chocolate-covered pretzel for her third year at the event, “It’s a great cause,” she said, “always good to come out for.”