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Willy Wonka Meets Mother Earth: The Chocolate Invitational Organizers Talk About Their Favorite Treat [UPDATED]

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Eds. note: The Chocolate Invitational has been postponed a day due to today's rain. See update below.

For many, a love of chocolate comes from childhood, when it was a treat to collect a plastic pumpkin full of mini bars on Halloween, or gobble up hot fudge sauce before it has time to cool while sliding down a mountain of ice cream. It's hot cocoa on a chilly day, the frosting on a birthday cake, or a reward for getting through a long day. Chocolate can be as gleeful as the kids in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" found it, but it also can be part of a healthy, creative, and spiritual life.

To honor and celebrate all things chocolate, the Chocolate Invitational on November 17 18 will bring together chocolatiers and the creative community for a day-long event open to all. Taking place at the scenic Malibu Ranch, attendees will be able to taste, learn, and experience the richness of life that is and comes from chocolate.

We got in touch with Chocolate Invitational organizers Mikki Sage and Ashely Walsh to learn how they dreamed up this tantalizing gathering, why chocolate can be tied to a love of earth, and how the sweet still tempts the kid in all of us.

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LAist: What prompted you to put together the Chocolate Invitational?

Mikki Sage and Ashley Walsh: We loved this idea of bring together a variety of different chocolatiers, each with their own unique and delicious way of making chocolate. It's a diverse community and there are a lot of great chocolate makers out there. What we have found is that they all have a similar dedication to making sure their products are made with an awareness of the earth [and] its sustainability and love. Bringing them all together is a chance to highlight the distinctive flavors each vendor creates and how they can pair with artisan foods to different teas in an environment that celebrates the Willy Wonka in all of us.

You see a strong connection between the earth and people that is expressed through the Cocoa tree and chocolate. Can you tell us a bit more about that bond and relationship?

The cocoa tree was first termed "food of the gods" by the ancient Mayans and we see through its storied history how cacao has been revered and loved through the ages from the bean to the finished product that we call chocolate. No doubt what caused and
causes this deep-seated love and desire for it are the healing qualities embedded in it. The earth and the farmers who manage the land and the trees are an essential part to the process of the creation of the chocolate we eat; we believe that honoring them as well as the food creates harmony and even more energy when you eat that [chocolate] bar or have that cup of hot chocolate.

How will the Invitational give guests a chance to experience chocolate and creativity?

The location we chose is a big step up from the run of the mill convention center. The outdoor venue is broken up with trees, grass and mountains, allowing us to create more of a flow through the festival as opposed to a confined space or crazy free for all. Throughout event there will be artists set up doing live paintings as well as wandering musicians and performers. Tea Ceremonies will be held in a Yurt over looking the mountains and Chocolate Tasting Meditations in the Teepee... there may even be an Oompa Loompa or two roaming around just for good measure.

Chocolate is often associated with gluttony or a lack of healthfulness, but I know you have a different perspective. How can chocolate be a part of a healthy lifestyle?

Chocolate over the past few years has finally been proven to be the healthy wonderful healing food we have always known it to be. Chocolate like anything is wonderful in moderation. Dark chocolate really enjoyed for the taste, the flavors that you get from it like say dark cherry or cinnamon can enhance each bite that after few small nibbles of truly tasting your chocolate you are satisfied allowing you to enjoy little and gain so much.

What's your favorite chocolate childhood memory?
Mikki Sage: Stuffing my face with chocolate...My mom would bake these amazing chocolate cakes and I loved to lick the frosting of course.

Ashley Walsh: I would say it was when my father [who founded a chocolate company] brought home the first batch of our Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate. I was 12 and there was a HUGE block of dark chocolate sitting on our counter staring at me. So of course I started hacking away at it with a knife and taking chunks of it in between chomping on pretzels. It was the start of a beautiful love

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The Chocolate Invitational is Saturday, November 17, 2012 Sunday, November 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tickets are now $27 in advance and can be purchased online.

UPDATE: The Chocolate Invitational has been postponed a day because of today's rainy weather. It will take place at the same time—11:30 am until 10 pm—but a day later. Here's a note from the organizers:

Due to unfortunate massive down pouring of rain, we are moving the event to tomorrow when it looks to be sunny! We hope you all can still make the event. It will be the same time and place just tomorrow not today. We hope this does not inconvenience anyone!

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