Culinary Curiosities: Behind Maui’s Taste of Chocolate with Chef Rhonda Ashton

Executive Pastry Chef Rhonda Ashton-Chavez

Four Seasons Maui Executive Pastry Chef Rhonda Ashton. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

With all of the swooning about the Taste of Chocolate, our annual culinary celebration of everything cacao, we decided ask Chef Rhonda Ashton – the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea Executive Pastry Chef – to share her thoughts about chocolate and what to expect this year.

With the grandest display of sweets around, being in charge of the Taste of Chocolate may seem daunting. She may have a lot of culinary magic ahead of her, but as you’ll hear from her it’s all for the love of chocolate

Insider tip: festival passes and ticket prices go up tomorrow, so if you like what you hear, you’ll want to get your passes today!

1. When you’re making up the menu each year, what are some of the things you have to consider? How do you create a “balanced menu” if chocolate is the main ingredient?

I try to incorporate fun items as well as something a little out of the ordinary or unique to an outside event – such as using liquid nitrogen, or making souffles to order. My desserts are never too sweet, and I always pair with something that is going to balance the chocolate.

2. What are some of the challenges when working with chocolate?

Heat and humidity are always working against you, and this is Hawaii so……

3. What’s the most exciting thing about this year’s event? What do regular Taste of Chocolate attendees have to look forward to?

A chocolate show piece from Donald Wressell, corporate pastry chef of Guittard Chocolate. 15 different dessert items – 5 of them created a la minute including chocolate souffles, liquid nitrogen ice cream paired with a cocktail, and the infamous chocolate fountain.

4. What do you think it is about chocolate that brings out such a vivacious, lively crowd of chocolate lovers to this event?

It could be all the sugar, but my guess it that it brings chocolate lovers together. Any time there’s a group of people with a common interest – and in this case it’s chocolate – it’s always a good time.