On Feb. 17, AIDS Foundation of Chicago's (AFC) annual fundraiser, World of Chocolate returned after a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the event was held in the main entry way of Union Station at 500 W. Jackson Blvd, and played host to over 1,000 guests and supporters. This 2023 edition hosted 22 chocolatiers who competed in various specialty categories while offering samples to guests. The event also featured a raffle and punchboard, with beats provided by DJ Marc "Moose" Moder along with a gourmet buffet.
AFC later announced that World of Chocolate had raised over a quarter of a million dollars. In a press release, AFC President and CEO John Peller said, "We are overwhelmed by the support of our community in making the return of 'World of Chocolate' a smashing success."
He added, "The overall trajectory of new HIV cases is going in the right direction. Events like 'World of Chocolate' help us to continue to provide access to comprehensive services such as housing, food, transportation, and care managementall of which contribute to successful outcomes for those vulnerable to living with HIV and moves us closer to zero transmissions by 2030."
Guest judges who officiated over the chocolatiers included Richard Dayhoff, Scott Duff, Valerie Beck, Candace Jordan, Paul Lisnek, Victoria LaPinske and Art "Chat Daddy" Smith. Winners included David Rubenstein Forum (in the "small Business" and "Savory" categories), JoJo's Shake Bar (for "Best Libation"), Ritz-Carlton (for "Best Large Business"), Black Rose Pastries/Steel City Bakery ("Best Sculpture") and Amy's Candy Bar (for "Best Sweet"). The Ritz-Carlton took home "The People's Choice Award."
Other participating chocolatiers included Chef Enrique Cortes, Al's Cookie Mixx, Noir D'Ebene et Chocolat et Patisserie, Vivere Chocolates, Superkhana International, Cocoa + Company, Blackout Baking Company, Vanille Patisserie, Cindy's, Jeppson's Malort, Terry's Toffee, Chocolate Uzma, The Chicago Marriott-Downtown Magnificent Mile, Chocolates by Maria, Eli's Cheesecake, Starbucks and Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland.
Proceeds from the event go towards connecting more than 5,000 clients with case management; training hundreds of medical professionals in preventive care, including PrEP; providing policy leadership in state and federal health equity systems; bridging housing and healthcare systems; and collaborating with partners across the state to achieve "Getting to Zero Illinois" (a state wide initiative to end new HIV transmissions in the state by 2030).
World of Chocolate was sponsored by, among others, Barry Callebaut, CH Distillery, Gilead, BMO Harris, Walgreen's, ITW, Janssen, PepsiCo and Molson Coors.