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I'll attempt to answer both cheezz's and MarilynFL's questions . . .

Veteran Member
1998 posts
Joined: Mar 10, 2006


Posted to Thread #20037 at 3:09 pm on Feb 23, 2011

A Taste of Chocolate is an annual fund raiser whose income goes to support and which is, therefore, a project that is organized by Columbus Service League--a not-for-profit women's group patterned after Junior Leagues but which cannot be called a Jr League since our small town doesn't meet the population required to have a JL locally.

Each year a CSL committee contacts local restaurants, caterers, bakeries, hotels, etc. and asks each for a donation of 100 portions of chocolate desserts. (Some give more; some give less--each according to its own ability. I typically agree to supply 100 portions.) Each participant has a vendor's table for the evening (ATOC is always scheduled on the Friday before Valentine's Day, and it runs from 5 PM until 8 PM or until whenever everybody runs out of desserts), and in return each contributor gets free publicity via newspaper, radio stations, posters put up all over town, on the marquis of local shopping mall where this fund raiser is held, etc., etc.

In addition to the vendors' tables, Columbus Service League requires each of its members (I think the gals number about 55 currently--I was a member for 13 years back in the day) to contribute 2 gourmet homemade chocolate desserts apiece.

Then CSL sells tickets to the public--$2 in advance of the event and $3 on the day of the event--and each ticket entitles the holder to one restaurant-sized dessert portion. There has been recent discussion about increasing those ticket prices--I cannot remember the last time they were upped--some of the vendors have been commenting on the fact that their chocolate goodies are worth more than CSL's going ticket rates.

So, it is a volunteer and donation situation, BUT several years back I came up with the idea of proposing a joint venture between Desserts, Etc. aka moi and my other part-time job folks. (I am also a temp for Edward Jones investment services, and there are 8 offices here in Columbus, IN.) Each year the 8 stockbrokers meet in the fall to decide how best to spend their pooled advertising money amongst newspaper ads, buying ad space in the local symphony program booklet, taking out "Congrats" space in the 2 high school yearbooks' pages, radio air time commercials, etc., etc.

I suggested that if they reimburse me for the cost of my ingredients, then I would include the name of EJ on the entrant application and on the vendor table and run it as Edward Jones Investments and Desserts, Etc. Catering Service. So the brokers buy my costly ingredients (I spare no expense on quality!), and I supply the labor to make the chocolate sweets and deliver, slice & serve on the evening of the event itself. I put out brochures from both our businesses on the table that evening plus there are banners on all the vendor tables stating who's who.

It has worked well for the both of us for a long time now. I don't know about the rest of you caterers, but I am asked constantly to give donations to local worthy causes. It's only by coming up with ideas like this one that my little fledgling business doesn't go belly-up and can still positively respond to and support these requests.

The second idea that I implemented to generate some bucks for Desserts, Etc. from this particular chocolate event is this:

Back when I was a member in CSL, I was privvy to many of the other gals stressing out about having to not only bake, but to bake something elegant to contribute to ATOC. That made total sense to me--if I had been asked to make and donate a quilt or some other fancy homemade craft item, I would have broken out in a cold sweat(!), too, so I began putting together a flyer each year that I send to CSL members at the beginning of January where I offer to make the desserts for them that they are required to donate, and I give them a slightly reduced price than what my going rates are. I also include a list of 6 or 8 desserts they can choose from. Some women hire me to make both their required desserts; others hire me to make one while they work to improve their baking skills by cranking out their second one. I deliver all these desserts to the CSL vendor table before heading off to set up my own joint EJ & DE table. So 100 of the desserts I made were for the EJ & DE table and the remaining 150+ portions were for the CSL women who hired me this year.

Sometimes I have even run cooking classes in January that the CSL women eagerly sign up for so they can learn 1) how to work with chocolate; 2) the various methods they can use to get their cheesecakes OFF the bottom springform pan (some women were simply putting their names on those pans and expecting to get them back at the end of the night. WRONG. Too many pan bottoms were accidentally thrown away!); 3) how to make chocolate leaves, curls, roses; 4) or anything else I can dream up for a class that will tempt people to pay me to teach them something about baking.

For Marilyn: I generally choose 6 to 8 dessert recipes to make each year--half are tried and true ones while the remaining ones are from my "Want To Try" files so I continue to learn and experiment. The general public is quite a wonderful guinea pig pool!

I begin prepping in January by making and freezing crusts of all kinds--pie crusts, cheesecake crusts, etc. I have a TON of bakeware so it's no problem to tie things like that up in the freezer.
I also made my 3 angel food cakes ahead a couple weeks and froze them to use in my trifles.

The Wednesday 2 days before ATOC has become Cheesecake Day. I spend hours mixing up batters and baking them in water baths. I want them to sit for at least a day to chill in the refrigerator and 2 days in the fridge won't hurt them in the least. Also, if there are leftovers, a cheesecake is a nice thing that can be frozen and used later whereas a whipped cream frosted torte has to be used up right away. (Some years we've had bad winter weather which resulted in smaller crowds, and I have gone home with a couple uncut desserts.) On Thursday I bake and assemble cakes or tortes that I didn't feel would do well being baked any further ahead. You can do their fillings and frostings ahead and refrigerate.

Friday, i.e., the day of, I assemble anything not suited to being done any earlier--like those whipped cream frosted towering tortes I made this year. That is also the day I garnish each and every individual serving so when it's cut and boxed, I don't have to fool with piping a whipped cream dollop or placing a mint sprig on top or a rose petal or a chocolate leaf or whatever my garnish is going to be. I figure all that out in advance so I don't duplicate from one dessert to the next.

I may have already written this, but in 2010 CSL cleared just over $9K from this event so this year they were shooting for $9.5K. They had 40 vendor tables on 2/11/11 which was an all-time high. This event was launched in Columbus in 1990, and it has grown steadily over the years.

Some group in Indianapolis used to sponsor a chocolate fest--I don't know if they continue to hold it anymore up there, but it had sort of turned into a major competition among all the various professional chefs from catering businesses and from the big hotel chains and restaurants, and they awarded nice trophies to the vendor who brought in the most tickets. I attended it along with a handful of other CSL women back in 1989 so we could see how it was organized. What I remember vividly is how one of the chefs put a full-length mirror down on his table and had piled it high with mounds and mounds of chocolate mousse and served big helpings from that mirror. It was impressive!

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