Questions and Answers with Marvin Baum of Chocolate World Expo

PREPARING to celebrate National Chocolate Day (today’s 28 October version, as different from the 7 July “Chocolate Day”, and 27/28 Dec. “National Chocolate Day” variations — as always, refer to The Almanac) we were somehow put in mind of the idea of world domination through chocolate which, when searched for, led us to the Chocolate World Expo.

This ongoing series of chocolate-themed consumer shows have taken place throughout the New York City environs for the last few years and are scheduled to land in Westchester, N.Y., next Sunday, Nov. 4, and New York City’s Armory Dec. 16. (No, unfortunately, we will not be setting up shop at either place this year, except by proxy.) The choco-genius behind the events is Marvin Baum, whose Baum Imaging Group has evolved. The suburban New York hi-tech digital images and computer programming company began working on events in 2004 with a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Woodstock and moved into the force behind numerous food-oriented special events. In the spirit of NCD, as well as celebration of his upcoming WCEs, leader Baum graciously answered a few questions.

Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: What was the inspiration to move from celebrating Woodstock 2004 to celebrating chocolate?

Marvin Baum: The Woodstock 35th Anniversary took place at the New York State Museum in Albany. In 2006, the Museum was having an exhibit on chocolate from the Field Museum of Chicago http://fieldmuseum.org/about/traveling-exhibitions/chocolate. Because I had organized what became the largest opening reception (for the exhibition part of the Woodstock Anniversary) in the history of the museum, they thought I could do a similar event for their chocolate exhibition. I really didn’t want to do just a “reception” with free samples… I wanted an event where vendors could offer tastings and sales, which was the beginning of my chocolate expo concept.

In 2008, I created Chocolate World Expo, my own independent show, in the NY metro area, with about 35 vendors and a vision for a “different” type of chocolate show. Now, I have about 70 vendors per show and the quality and diversity of products offered continues to increase. I’ve also expanded to five locations in three states..

CAC: What have been the most interesting trends that you have since you started the shows?

MB: People want to try new and “different” things. The healthy/raw/organic chocolates sell very well as do most “regular” indulgent chocolates. At the same time chocolate-covered bacon is a very big seller at Chocolate World Expo and the chocolate-covered pickles sold out in about 30 minutes at my last show on Long Island. Beside this, I’d say that dark chocolate is definitely a trend now.

CAC: What is your favorite kind of chocolate and how do you like it prepared?

I’ve personally become a fan of dark chocolate. As a kid, I didn’t like the only dark chocolate I had tried — bittersweet chocolate. I’m finding now that dark chocolates generally are much better and tastier from what existed previously. Perhaps my tastes have also matured.

CAC: Who are some of the more interesting vendors and what are some of the most interesting products the show has featured over the years?

This is really hard for me to give an answer — there are so many interesting vendors. For instance, the owners of Pika’s Farm Table are from Belgium. They import real Belgium pearl sugar to make pastry-like Belgian waffles at my shows. These waffles are nothing like the so-called “Belgian waffles” most Americans think of from the local diner or restaurant. After they make the waffles on-site, they dip them in dark, milk or white chocolate. It’s really a special treat. One person told me he’s coming back to the show this year specifically for the waffles.

CAC: In what ways do you see Chocolate World Expo expanding for the future?

MB: Basically, I’m adding on new locations like the Cradle of Aviation Museum [Garden City, Long Island], Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk [Connecticut] and Lexington Armory [NYC], while also increasing the quantity, quality and diversity of participating vendors. In the long run, I hope to expand to Boston, Washington, Philly and possibly several other cities.

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