The Festival of Chocolate – a delicious event for a great cause

The Festival of Chocolate: Thursday February 10, 2011 at Lago


Katherine Carter has lived in Ottawa for five years, and is the Community Relations Coordinator for the city’s Distress Centre. She is also the head of  this year’s Festival of Chocolate. This week, Local Tourist Ottawa was lucky enough to have a short Q&A with her to learn a bit about this fundraiser.

The Festival of Chocolate sounds like a delicious event! Who will be competing and how will the chocolatiers be judged?

We have such wonderful competitors this year that I’m really excited about. This year, Roch Fournier (Rochef Chocolatier), who was our winner from last year’s competition, will be returning for his second year. We are also fortunate to have the lovely Amanda Lunan, (Auntie Loo’s Treats)  who is a vegan baker, and Joe Collabro (Paticceria Gelatteria Italiana), an accomplished baker/chocolatier who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years. Roch, Amanda and Joe are three very talented individuals who come from different backgrounds and styles – a combination that is sure to add more to this year’s competition.

Each chef will have about 10 to 15 minutes to present their piece to a panel of judges, an amazing group including Ron Eade (Ottawa Citizen food critic), Chef Herve Chabert (Le Cordon Bleu) and Heinrich Stubbe (Stubbe’s Chocolates). The competitors will talk about what they used for ingredients, their inspirations and what they are hoping the guest and judges will experience. The judges will then have the opportunity to give their feedback, ask questions, and will score each competitor based on such things as use of chocolate, taste and creativity.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is an event that is meant to, above all, be fun.

The culinary network in Ottawa is so vibrant and passionate that it’s great to get everyone together where there’s no pressure of a formal competition, but we figured that because our competitors take their work to heart, we would make sure that the judges we had were able to speak from a similar perspective so that if they so desired, they could use that feedback to put directly back into their businesses and grow their inventory.

So what does this mean for the people who attend?

When the people arrive at the event, there will be the opportunity sample lots of chocolate from a variety of vendors, some who will be on-site to talk about their products. Kathleen’s Kitchen is one who has been a big supporter of ours and both Jack and Kathleen will be there to present their wonderful truffles. Guests will also be treated to a complimentary beverage of their choice. Throughout the night we there will also be a silent auction with some amazing items up for bid like Bluesfest passes, spa gift certificates, and much more.

Around eight o’clock our lovely master of ceremonies for the evening, Jen Traplin (LiVE 88.5) will start the chef competition… and then we’re off for another round of chocolate delights!

What’s this I hear about firefighters?

Ha! It’s true, we’ve been really fortunate to have the help of the Ottawa Professional Firefighter’s Association, they’ve been amazing. This year, they will be serving chocolate throughout the evening and are also helping us to raise money by raffling off some awesome prizes like Sens box seats and a Netbook. Again, it was just a natural evolution of the event through the contacts we had in the community and these guys are simply the best.

The Festival of Chocolate is a fundraiser for the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region. Tell us about the Distress Centre and the services you provide.

The Distress Centre provides 24/7 confidential telephone call in services for individuals of all ages to connect with when they are in distress or feel they are deteriorating further into crisis. People can call for any reason: emotional support, stress, bullying, mental illness or even if they are thinking about suicide or are worried about someone at risk of suicide. Our volunteers receive the best training, currently we provide the most training hours of any Distress Centre in Canada (59) which includes the LivingWorks ASIST Suicide Intervention Certification, a course which is given to many professionals including community health care workers, psychiatric nurses and police officers.

We are volunteer based and an access point into the mental health system, since 2003 we’ve operated the Ottawa Hospital’s Mental Health Crisis Line so that should a person’s situation require an extra level of care we can actually transfer them directly to a crisis team worker. It’s a wonderful marriage of community grassroots working with professional care.

We are an important service for Ottawa, Champlain District and West Quebec because mental health affects us all, and we should all play a role in maintaining our own and our communities wellbeing. The Distress Centre exists so that anyone at anytime can always have someone to reach out to for help and support.

Tickets for the Festival of Chocolate are $50 per person and must be purchased in advance. Please call 613-238-1089 x 222 to buy your tickets, and support the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.

Thanks for chatting with us Katherine!