If chocolate grew on trees, the world would undoubtedly be a sweeter place. Well, it sort of does—chocolate is made from cacao, the plant of the Theobroma tree, which is Latin for “food of the gods.” This also happens to be exactly how we would describe this heavenly treat.
Bittersweet and rich, chocolate has evoked mystery and emotion since its discovery; used in sacred ceremonies, exchanged as gestures of romance, and featured across holidays, this food has been the center of fascination across the globe for centuries. Writer Margaret Visser described chocolate as a food larger than life: "Dark foods like coffee, chocolate, truffles are often associated with things like excitement and luxury. These dark and strange substances must be very old and full of meaning.”
Besides luxury and significance, chocolate is also simply one of the most popular comfort foods and tasty joys of life. It also increases serotonin, making this mood-booster an excellent item to include at any event. Increase significance and happiness at your next occasion by featuring chocolate in all its glorious forms.
Menu: savory, sweet, and sipped
Everyone expects chocolate as a dessert, so instead, surprise guests with savory! Think chocolate-based marinades and sauces such as mole, chilis, and stews, dips like hummus and baba ghanoush, and even chocolate pasta. Of course, classic chocolate desserts will never go out of style, and amping up the presentation will keep timeless treats new and exciting.
Bring chocolate to the bar with spiked hot chocolate and creative takes on classic cocktails, like a chocolate mint julep or a chocolate old fashioned. Serve chocolate wine or rich chocolate stouts and porters. Garnish drinks with shavings, curls, and even small bars of chocolate, or serve beverages in chocolate-and-sugar-rimmed cocktail glasses—or for extra flair, serve them out of shot glasses made from chocolate!
Chocolate pairing menus are another luscious way for guests to experience the many iterations of this sweet. Cheeses, wines, beers, and other liquors all pair wonderfully with chocolate.
A popular event feature, fondue fountains can be an excellent addition to a soiree when done correctly. “Chocolate fountains require a lot of attention and discipline on our end in order to be enjoyed by our guests in a clean, safe way,” says Bryce Cherven, Executive Pastry Chef at Footers Catering. The best way to do this is to use a professional catering service who provides the equipment, attendants, and service.
“There should always be an attendant whose job is to help build skewers, bus any waste, and encourage guests to only dip once with each skewer,” says Cherven. “Two attendants are even better as one can help any children through the process; we don't have to worry about the adults quite as much. We have found that just by having someone at the station to both help and monitor, it cuts down on a lot of double dipping or, even worse, finger dipping.”
Make sure to place a sign nearby reminding guests not to double-dip, as well as a waste basket to encourage throwing skewers after a single use. Attendants can also help with staving off chocolate splatters, says Cherven; they can wipe down the area regularly and make sure linens don’t get ruined.
The fountains Footers uses can be rented for $150–$250 depending on the size, but larger fountains can range from $300–$500.
Who says chocolate is only for eating? In many forms, it is just as pretty as it is tasty. Take the life-like showpieces of expert chocolatier Amaury Guichon, whose masterpieces have gone viral on the internet for their breathtaking artistic qualities.
Some of these showpieces can be interactive, featuring moving parts or acting as a photo op. Guichon also creates chocolate illusions, crafting desserts that look savory, like a burger or taco, but are actually made of chocolate and other sweet flavorings. Surprising desserts are a great way to thrill your guests.
Another way to decorate with chocolate: fill glass bowls or candle holders with chocolate chips or cacao beans and set tea lights on top. Sprinkle cocoa powder across a table or serving station to create a beachy look.
Engage guests with chocolate activities
Don’t just bring in chocolate for your guests to observe or consume—make it part of the event’s activities! There are plenty of creative ways for eventgoers to interact with chocolate.
Lisa Dupar Catering (Seattle, WA) offers an interactive chocolate building “Bean to Bar” station, where guests can select flavors of chocolate and add-ins such as nuts, fruits, and candies to go into a personalized chocolate bar which they get to take home.
Other interactive station ideas: make a s’mores bar where guests can roast their marshmallows over a central heat source and build their own campfire creations. Have a chocolate tasting bar where guests can take notes on different types of chocolate.
For the audience that likes to learn, go above and beyond! Take guests on a tour of a chocolate factory or help them develop their skills in a chocolate-making masterclass.
Use chocolate to help support the greater theme of your event: give guests hollow chocolate treats, like a chocolate treasure chest, which they can break into to find candies or paper fortunes, scavenger hunt clues, inspirational quotes, or other memorabilia for the event.
Perhaps the most unique activity to offer is that of chocolate massages. These massages use cocoa oil or even chocolate wax on the skin during a massage and can lower stress, reduce cellulite, and improve circulation. Who wouldn’t want to combine two of the best comforts into one relaxing activity?
Chocolate and a show
Want to combine chocolate and entertainment? Bring in a live sculptor! Paul Joachim, who goes by the name The Chocolate Genius, is a chocolatier who creates chocolate sculptures live at events.
“Everyone has a deep, visceral connection with chocolate. Chocolate is simply a fantastic medium to connect with a vast audience!” Joachim says. “When guests see me creating a magnificent sculpture out of their favorite food group and doing it live...well, what is there not to get inspired by! On top of that, we add a chocolate-tasting component allowing the experience to resonate with all the audience's senses, imagination, and excitement.” While sculpting, he’ll host chocolate trivia that culminates in giving out exciting, high-end culinary prizes to the guests.
The Chocolate Genius has created sculptures of buildings, brand logos, new products, and guests of honor. Sculptures can take anywhere from 45 minutes to multiple days, depending on the event. Even without the entertainment factors, guests are enthralled by the live sculpting.
“The first thing guests experience is the aroma in the air before even seeing what I’m sculpting. They are already enthralled and looking for the source of the enticing chocolate aroma,” Joachim says. Everyone stays entertained watching the piece take form over the course of the event. “Guests keep coming back to witness significant progress.”
After the event, the fate of the sculpture has two options: “Many times, they are put on display where they are admired for years,” says Joachim. “And, of course, the sculptures can always be eaten!”
Tokens of affection
Give the gift of chocolate before and after your event! Customized chocolate bars or hot cocoa bags make great invitations and will get invitees excited about the event. You could even send invitations inside of a box assortment or with an artisan chocolate piece like rocks and jewels or marbled chocolate.
There are endless ways to incorporate chocolate into party favors. Create a “couples’ favorite” chocolate assortment for weddings; engrave logos and initials, have chocolate that’s been photo-impressed with the host’s face or a brand logo, custom wrap boxes or individual chocolates with the theme of the event or with dried pressed flowers. Customized hot chocolate favors with cocoa powder and marshmallows are always a great choice and can be packaged in a test tube, a packet, or a decorated bag. A chocolate-dipped spoon with candies and sprinkles which guests can stir into their favorite hot beverage always makes an excellent party favor.
Use chocolate as a token of remembrance for the host as well: have guests sign individual chocolate bars or a bottle of chocolate wine in place of a guestbook or have them each bring their favorite type of chocolate to contribute to an assortment for the host gift.
Whether you incorporate a few chocolate details or go all out with chocolate at every corner, your event is sure to leave a lasting and flavorful impression on attendees.
Thoughtful tips for chocolatey affairs
Chocolate is best enjoyed at 65-68° F (18-20° C). Consider the temperature of the venue space and how rooms may heat up when filled with people—if you have lots of chocolate on display, be vigilant about keeping a cool temperature to prevent melting.
You’ll also want to be very proactive in letting guests know about the chocolate and accompanying goodies, so guests with food allergies like dairy, nuts, and yes, even chocolate, know about the abundance of these ingredients in advance. Be sure to have allergy-friendly options.
As always, work with your caterer to try to find ethically-sourced chocolate, marked with approval from Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance and locally made, if possible. The chocolate industry isn’t immune to the problems of irresponsible farming and human labor exploitation, so make your best eff ort to provide ethically-sourced chocolate. Use this resource from Ethical Consumer for help in choosing chocolate companies that have a good sourcing rating.
With a little bit of caution and a whole lot of creativity, you can give guests a delicious time by making chocolate the star of your next show!