By DENNIS FAUCHER
Everything was top drawer.
Canada’s premier student pastry competition and chocolate and icewine event this past Saturday was showcased at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus at the second annual Decadence event. Decadence is a weekend of celebrating chocolate and icewine. About 1,500 people attended the event.
International judges came from far and wide to judge entries from Toronto’s Humber College, Niagara College, Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and Holland College of Charlottetown. Among the judges was Food Network star Anna Olson, one of the world’s top chocolatiers, Joris Vanhee from Belgium and a handful of other chocolate and pastry pros.
Events were spread between the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, where guests were encouraged to pair chocolates and beer; the Wine Visitor and Education Centre, where guests could sample icewine, chocolates, icewine syrups and assorted delicacies; and the main events in the Canadian Food and Wine Institute and Benchmark restaurant building.
Though the weather was one of February’s mildest days, event goers were not forced to walk between locations. Sentineal Carriages was on site offering free horse-drawn carriage rides between buildings while collecting donations for the local Out of the Cold program.
Erma Grayson, grandmother of a student of the institute, says she was delighted to take part in the festivities.
“We see these carriages around Niagara-on-the-Lake all the time, but I’ve never been able to ride in one,” she said as Fred Sentineal escorted her out of the carriage and invited her to give Po, the horse, a pat for a job well done.
Chef Robert Epskamp, from the Johnson and Whales University, Charlotte Campus, delighted audience members in the Chocolate Theatre (Ht 109) with a detailed presentation on the preparation of ganache.
“They were nice enough to invite us to come out and be part of the chocolate extravaganza,” said Epskamp, who travelled from South Carolina.
Epskamp says he enjoyed the day and was happy to see students and other members of the community taking part.
“The kids were wearing most of what they were making, so it seemed they enjoyed themselves,” he said.
The atmosphere in the competition kitchen was tense while judges prowled silently, observing the 10 competitors as they folded, moulded and melted their creations into existence.
For those who weren’t watching the competitors, there was plenty to do. There were chocolate manicures to face painting for the kids. Professor David Gibson, of the Hospitality and Tourism Department, brought out his birds of prey from Skyhunters, which were perched on display in front of the Institute.
“We like to bring something different,” says Gibson, whose hunters gathered attention from young and old spectators throughout the afternoon. In his company were not only a bald eagle, a falcon and a barn owl, but also his wife and twin daughters who are learning to keep owls of their own.
The day wrapped up with a Sweet Dreams Gala dinner, which was attended by about 200 people, and final judgments on the chocolate sculpture creations. The dinner was held at Benchmark, where Sunday morning also saw the Chocolate and Icewine Brunch.
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