Fast forward to adulthood, you slowly give up on the idea of entering a real life chocolate factory. Well little did I know, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is indeed very real and it appears once a year in the Great Hall in Union Station. It is known as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s World of Chocolate.
Instead of streams of rainbows and hot pink gumballs, World of Chocolate is quite the lavish affair as the room is draped in ravishing tones of red with accents of gold. It’s a no-brainer that famed luxury design firm Kehoe Designs was behind the opulence. This candied affair was going to take us back to the Roaring 20’s where we were going to be greeted with women in flapper dresses and men in their dapper suits.
Throughout the elegant space, there were 27 of Chicago’s finest chocolatiers ready to present their best creations. As soon as the doors of the Great Hall opened, more than 1100 attendees flooded the room as they sampled a plethora of sweet confections. It was overwhelming at first as tables would be fully lined with a multitude of chocolate bites and candied sweets. Some creations were dripping in pearls, gold, and of course, oozing in chocolate. The tantalizing spectacle fit in quite seamlessly with the festive Holiday season that is upon us.
With a room full of sweets, you are probably thinking that all of that sugar is just a headache waiting to happen. Well luckily, there was also quite the bounty of savory options ranging from an assortment of succulent gourmet sandwiches to a delicious offering of duck drizzled in Mole from Hilton Chicago. The multiple bars were also ready to serve the libations perfect for rinsing out our palate of sweets.
An immediate showstopper that caught my eye was Life’s Sweeter Side whose table dazzled with golden glitter candy apples and sparkling cookies and cupcakes. The cotton candy colored display always featured a line of 1920’s clad patrons stacking up their plates with all of the colorful and elegant treats.
For the guests who sought the gangster scene of the 1920’s they chose to puff away on chocolate cigars and sipped on chocolate cocktails inside InterContinental Chicago’s faux prison. Due to the wide array of crowd pleasing sweets, InterContinental took home the prize for the People’s Choice Award. They certainly had the most intriguing and interactive display of the bunch making it the most Instagrammed moment of the night.
While the sweets delighted the palate, it was the infectious flapper performance by Zzazz Productions that delighted the eyes. The performers lit up the room as the audience eagerly anticipated the announcement of the night’s winners.
After hours of careful deliberation, the guests and the judges decided the fate of a few lucky winners that night. The winners of the evening included Kendall College for Best Sweet, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel for Best Savory, and CH Distillery for Best Libation.
With almost 30 chocolatiers and a ton of sugary bites eagerly waiting for consumption, this year’s judges had a tough decision deciding who should take home the coveted prizes. But alas, only a few are able to dominate World of Chocolate.
The winners are rewarded and the guests ate enough sweets to last them till the next year. Unfortunately, the night had to end and all of the guests had to part with the sugar paradise that was presented before them. Luckily, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago knew that the separation anxiety would be intense so each of the guests left with the memento of chocolate bars. World of Chocolate was certainly the Holiday event of the season.
On December 3rd, 1000’s of Chicagoans had the time of their lives inside the Great Hall at Union Station and World of Chocolate remains a night to remember. $120,000 was raised that night for the research and prevention of AIDS in Chicago. It was indeed a sweet night for a sweet cause.
Here’s hoping that the return of World of Chocolate is even more, grand for 2016.