Chocstock Festival to return to Wellington with legendary New Zealand chef Peter Gordon

Calling all chocolate lovers: Chocstock, the only local festival dedicated to the creamy confection, is returning to Wellington this June after its sell-out debut in 2021.

The weekend-long event, hailed as a "chocolate festival for grown-ups", brings together over 25 chocolatiers from Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific to celebrate artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate and the country's flourishing craft industry.

They will be joined by New Zealand chef Peter Gordon, who is serving as this year's Chocstock ambassador. 

The three-day festival will allow chocolate connoisseurs to meet the makers, learn about the origins of their favourite bars, and understand more about the burgeoning space. It will also feature special events such as the 'Ultimate Brownie Bake Off', which will see eight local bakers battle it out for the title of best single-origin Pacific brownie. Meanwhile, Coffee Supreme and Double Vision Brewing will also be on deck to showcase how best to pair chocolate with your favourite brew - caffeinated or alcoholic. 

Since the festival's debut in 2021, the number of local craft chocolatiers has tripled, says Chocstock founders Matt Williams and Luke Owen-Smith - which means the festival also needs to triple in size to accommodate them. 

"Three years ago, there were around 10 local makers in New Zealand, and now there are almost 30. People can't get enough of craft chocolate; it's incredible to watch," Owen-Smith said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"We're excited to bring these creative, innovative and adventurous makers to the capital so foodies and the taste-adventurous can explore the magic of bean-to-bar chocolate." 

Chocstock Festival founders Luke and Matt.
Chocstock founders Luke and Matt are stoked to see the festival return after a three-year hiatus. Photo credit: Supplied

Chocstock is New Zealand's only festival solely dedicated to celebrating small-batch chocolate made with rare, ethically sourced cocoa beans, Owen-Smith noted, with hopes the event will spark "fresh curiosity about craft chocolate and what's possible from speciality beans". 

Gordon, a self-confessed chocolate enthusiast, said it's important to champion small-scale food producers across Aotearoa and the Pacific - giving them space to share their often "incredible" origin stories.

"These makers are bringing something new to the table - allowing people to understand where their chocolate comes from. As someone who can remember Woodstock and how that changed perceptions, getting to be part of Chocstock and helping tell this story drew me in straight away," he said.  

Peter Gordon
Legendary local chef Peter Gordon is this year's Chocstock ambassador. Photo credit: Supplied

Vanuatu's Gaston Chocolat is one of the craft chocolatiers who will be attending this year. The team creates its handcrafted bars with cocoa sourced from local farmers, ensuring they are paid above market rates and helping them to implement sustainable farming practices.

"There's something special about beans grown in the Pacific, and New Zealand is fortunate to have some strong connections with growers across the region," Williams said. 

Despite there being a three-year hiatus between festivals, the founders are hoping Chocstock will become an annual event.  

"While Wellington is known for its beer and coffee, we consider it the home of Kiwi craft chocolate. We think people will be blown away by the impact that a focus on quality and ethics can have on flavour, and we can't wait for people to discover the sometimes wild and wonderful creations that will be on offer," Owen-Smith added.  

Exhibitors will include the likes of Wellington Chocolate Factory, Raglan Chocolate, Coromandel Chocolate, Half Baked Catering Co and Wellington's Le Ciel Bakery.

Chocstock will run from June 21 to June 23, 2024 at Wellington's Harbourside Centre. General tickets are on sale from Monday, March 18.