At the World of Chocolate

Tue. December 20, 2005 12:00 AM
by Jason Paul

What do you a call dude lying covered in sugary treats and naked but for a silk napkin? Dessert – or so that’s what the Fairmont Hotel’s signature restaurant, aria, would have you believe. The restaurant’s Expose of Men, featuring male model platters serving up their chocolate delicacies, was but one of the many cocoa-inspired displays at this year’s AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s fundraiser, World of Chocolate.

Commemorating World AIDS Day on December 1, this fourth annual event was the largest it’s ever been. Hundreds of attendants packed into the Fairmont’s ball room were overwhelmed by the exhibits of over 20 of Chicago’s finest restaurants, chocolatiers and caterers. On special display were a Willy Wonka-styled chocolate river, chocolate fantasy fountains and, seemingly the media’s favorite, aria’s cocoa butter-battered boys. Guests were also invited to take part in the evening’s raffle with high-class prizes ranging from a beach paradise vacation package and dinner for six at aria.

AFC’s Associate Director of Special Events, Erik Sosa , was particularly found of the cocoa-based skin care products on display that night and commented on the affordable cost of World of Chocolate to its attendants. Responding to a statement made about the heftier price tags to some Chicago’s other charitable galas, Erik says, “The affordability of World of Chocolate gives AFC an opportunity to involve a much more diverse and broader scope of our community who may otherwise not be inclined to attend an event of this caliber.” Cost of the party was $60 in advance and $75 at the door.

However satisfying your sweet tooth for cheap wasn’t the only reason to go to WofC this year. Guests also had the chance to stalk some of their favorite faces on Chicago TV. Local news and entertainment, reporters and anchormen Kathy Brock , Wayne Johnson , Dean Richards , Kevin Roy , Randy Selerno and Leda Santodomingo were in attendance as special guest judges privileged with chore of choosing their favorite chocoholic treat. Even ChicagoPride.com’s own celebrity prince of pop, Jim Verraros (pictured), was there to serve on the board of judges as well.

"The World of Chocolate was incredible!” says Jim. “The vendors were all so delicious; it was hard for me to choose a winner. However, when it all came down to it, aria and the crepes were unbelievable! I was so impressed at everyone's hard work in the culminating of the event and so happy to be a part of it.”

By the time the ballots were all in, the event had already raised over $100,000 net.

Funds raised from WofC will support AFC’s policy and public education and grant-making programs with a portion benefiting AFC’s new Global AIDS Initiative.

For more information on AFC’s events, services and programs, visit www.aidschicago.org.

World of Chocolate photos by Frank Failing (Male Image Photography) - View the full WOC photo gallery

Scene Notes

When not at work , Erik Sosa is still at work (pictured at World of Chocolate with Jim Struthers). If he’s not in the office organizing special events for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, he’s out pursuing his passion for art and painting – which he has used to raise thousands of dollars for the Foundation. Though his work in the art and gay communities recognized him as the 2005 Vox/Out Magazine award winner for vision and design, isn’t fundraising for the organization you work for on a personal level kind of like “paying it backward?”

“Maybe,” Erik says, “but it’s a great opportunity to give something back to the community and meet new people."

On baring it all as one of aria’s naked chocolate models on an WMAQ-TV segment that aired Nov. 31 promoting the WofC event, Erik blushed, “You weren’t supposed to know that was me.”

See Erik’s art at www.erikrsosa.com.

Congratulations to JR Richardson (seen up close enjoying a Chocolate Martini at the World of Chocolate fundraiser) for achieving his year long goal of running in the AIDS Marathon and raising over $2000 for the fight against AIDS.

Returning from Hawaii after participating in this year’s Honolulu Marathon JR says has left him feeling “Accomplished, rewarded -- but tired."

After a 10 month training regimen, and a high protein, low fat diet, JR completed the 24-mile run in just under 4 hours. Of this accomplishment, JR says, “I’m stoked.”