This weekend, ICE Chef Instructor Michelle Tampakis was invited by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation to be a judge at their 19th Annual Chocolate Fantasy in Albuquerque.

The event featured 17 contestants in three divisions, Chocolatiers, Restaurant/Caterers and Schools. Each contestant had to present a showpiece, and 300 candy pieces for sampling. The theme of the event was The Pride of the Serengeti, and all showpieces reflected some African motif.

Chef Michelle and her fellow judges, Kerry Vincent of Food Network Challenge, Paul Edward of Chef Rubber and Mary Jo Stojak of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, carefully examined each of the contestant’s work. They named Darci Rochau, pastry chef from the Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa. Chef Michelle was so impressed with her work, that she recommended the winner attend our upcoming chocolate showpiece class with Vincent Pilon in ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS@ICE).

The evening culminated in a gala dinner and silent auction for 800 guests. This fundraiser generated over $90,000 to benefit the Museum Foundation and their work to further the cultural, educational and scientific programs of the museum.