Coinciding with World AIDS Day, the 15th annual World of Chocolate winter gala was held Dec. 1 at Revel Fulton Market in the West Loop. Over 1,100 guests came together to enjoy sweet and savory creations offered by 21 local chocolatiers, restaurants and caterers to benefit the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The event celebrated the progress the HIV/AIDS community has made to end the epidemic.
Beyond chocolate, the evening featured music, a raffle and a punchboard filled with donated prizes. Artist Erik Sosa presented a live painting exhibition, and burlesque dancers from Naughty Little Cabaret entertained the crowd.
Local notables served as judges for the night’s chocolate competition and included Lorin Adolph (personal chef); Andrea Alexander (Just Like U Like It Catering); Valerie Beck (Chicago Chocolate Tours); Maggie Hennessy (chef/author); Hank Mendheim (ABC-7 Windy City Live contributor) and Laura Schwartz (TV personality/author). Emcee Rob Racine announced the winning vendors alongside co-chairs Jill Allread, Glen Pietrandoni, Chris Schmidt, Ben Stringfellow and AIDS Foundation of Chicago CEO John Peller.
The Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile won the People’s Choice Award. Intercontinental’s Executive Chef Randy Reed and pastry chef Thomas Gorczyca served up malted milk chocolate nitrogen ice cream with candy crumble, and triple chocolate tarts that featured red chocolate AIDS ribbons on top.
The Peninsula Chicago, winner of best sweet and best large business, featured an homage to the Cubs‘ recent World Series win. A replica of the Wrigley Field scoreboard with “Cubs Win!” emblazoned across the front served as the backdrop of the booth. Peninsula chefs and staffers sported Cubs hats and jerseys while serving up white chocolate and coconut mini cakes and Alunga milk chocolate pastries.
Other winners included Cindy’s in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (best savory); Dove Chocolate Discoveries (best libation) and Uptown Brownie (best small business). Kendall College School of Culinary Arts won for best sculpture, with student Rene Shen’s elaborate chocolate mermaid creation.
John Peller, AFC president/CEO, said, “It seemed incongruous to have a big bash on such a somber day, but World AIDS Day is also a day to celebrate today’s incredible treatment advances and the fact that we have PrEP, a daily pill that’s nearly 100 percent effective at preventing HIV.”
Over $105,000 was raised to support AFC’s work to end new HIV infections in Chicago and beyond, as well as support programs that provide case management services for more than 7,000 clients; housing for 1,100 homeless Chicagoans; training for hundreds of medical professionals about PrEP; and policy leadership at state and federal levels.
“For 40 years, the AFC has worked to raise support and provide programs and advocacy that helps prevent HIV and assist those living with HIV and AIDS. As you can imagine, state and federal funding is at serious risk, making it even more critical for AFC to raise private support to sustain programs that help people of all ages, color and backgrounds. The Foundation is committed to keeping the progress moving forward,” noted Jill Allread, event co-chair.
Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.