2018 committee


Bernard Pacyniak

Bernard Pacyniak has been editor-in-chief of Candy Industry magazine since 2001. Prior to that, he was editor of its sister publication, Snack Food and Wholesale Baking, having joined BNP Media’s Food, Beverage and Packaging Division in 1994. Pacyniak has more than 30 years experience in B-to-B magazine publishing as a writer and editor, the bulk of that time spent covering the baking, snack and confectionery industries. He graduated from Boston University with a B.S. degree in journalism in 1976 and has won several writing awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors.


Caroline Lubbers

Caroline Lubbers (Amsterdam) is co-founder and organiser of several initiatives in chocolate with a focus on quality and sustainability. The annual Origin Chocolate Event and Chocoa are among them, gathering international stakeholders in cocoa and chocolate. Her company Equipoise is focused on market driven approaches that safeguard sustainable commodity supply chains. Additionally, Caroline is passionate about the taste of fine chocolate and often participates in tasting events, jury’s and writes reviews in magazines.


Michael Laiskonis

Michael Laiskonis was named Creative Director of New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2012. Previously Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin for eight years, his work helped the restaurant maintain three stars from the esteemed Michelin Guide and four stars from the New York Times. Laiskonis was awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation and in 2014 the International Association of Culinary Professionals tapped him as its ‘Culinary Professional of the Year’. Under the banner of Laiskonis Consulting, LLC performs a broad range of advisory roles and development projects for prominent food companies, small start-ups, and restaurants. His writing has appeared in Gourmet, Salon, The Huffington Post and The Atlantic, as well as several cookbook anthologies. Michael’s kitchen sessions are documented on his column, Opusculum, for Lucky Peach. Since 2015, Laiskonis has managed the ICE Chocolate Lab, creating educational opportunities in bean-to-bar chocolate making.


Kristy Leissle, Phd

Kristy has been researching, writing, and teaching about cocoa and chocolate since 2004. She is affiliate faculty in African Studies at the University of Washington and Cultural Specialist for National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions, and is the former Director of Education (2010-2013) of the Northwest Chocolate Festival. She is the author of Cocoa (Cambridge: Polity, 2018), which addresses the geopolitics of the cocoa industry, as well as numerous articles on the politics, economics, and cultures of cocoa and chocolate. Kristy is based in Accra, Ghana, where she is conducting research for a new book on the cultural politics of cocoa and chocolate.


The Legends of Chocolate Steering Committee consists of five people:

  • 2 permanent representatives from The Big Event Group
  • 1 representative from the world of publishing
  • 1 representative from the world of chocolate/pastry
  • 1 representative of a professional association in cocoa/chocolate
  • All non-permanent members should be currently active in their respective areas
  • No more than one non-permanent member of the Advisory Board can be from the NY Metro area.
  • At least one non-permanent member of the Advisory Board should be from outside North America.


  • Steering Committee members serve for three years, following the initial year. 
  • One non-permanent first-year Steering Committee will serve for one year, another for two years, and the third for three years. 
  • This rotation is in place to ensure that new ideas are added to the process each year.
  • Term runs Jan 1 through December 31.


  • A Steering Committee member is not eligible for consideration as a Legend before the fourth year after stepping down as a member.

Nomination and Selection Process

The Steering Committee is responsible for maintaining a list of categories and a pool of candidates from which to consider and select. 

Legends of Chocolate Eligibility Guidelines

  • Candidates for nomination must have been active after 1980.
  • The primary consideration is impact on the world of cocoa and chocolate. Impact is not the same thing as longevity or lifetime achievement.
  • Posthumous nominations are allowed.
  • Candidates for nomination are not limited to people; companies, educational/research institutions, teams, and even cacao varieties can be nominated. 

Step 1

Each member of the Steering Committee is asked to independently compile a list of candidates. Each nomination is to be accompanied by a description of why the person is being nominated, and a category or categories they fit in. These lists are presented to the permanent members of the Steering Committee.

The permanent members of the Steering Committee do not share the ongoing process with the management of the The Big Event Group or other organizers of The Big Chocolate Show until after the final selections have been made.

Step 2

The candidate pool is organized into one or more tables to make it easy for the Steering Committee members to evaluate the candidate pool. One of the tables presents a ranking of the nominations based on the number of times each candidate is nominated.

This organized compilation is sent to all members of the Steering Committee. This is the first time the entire Steering Committee sees all of the nominations and reasoning.

Step 3

Each member of the Steering Committee is asked to think about the recommendations of the other members, and is asked to re-rank their nominations based upon the input of the other members.

All thoughts and changes are returned to the permanent members of the Steering Committee to be recompiled. This recompilation includes a table of the nominations reflecting any changes in rank based on the group's input.

Step 4

Up until now, the Steering Committee has been operating independently.

The re-ranked list created in Step 3 is sent to the Steering Committee in advance of a videoconference call where the the list is discussed as a group. 

During this call, the task is for each Steering Committee member to advocate on behalf of their nominations and ask questions of the other Steering Committee members about their nominations. The goal is to come to a strong consensus around the top 3-5 nominations.

The Steering Committee can consider gender and geographic diversity as factors during this call when arriving at their final recommendation. Steering Committee members can also consider overlaps in categories (i.e., the goal is to have only one Legend in a category in a given year) when making their final recommendations.

Step 5

After the conference call, the permanent members of the Steering Committee review the results and make the final selection. This review takes place no more than 48 hours after the conference call.

The final results of this process are presented to the management of The Big Event Group and the organizers of The Big Chocolate Show at their next regularly-scheduled meeting.

Once this presentation has been made, the Legends will be contacted and notified.