The annual For the Love of Chocolate event featured gourmet chocolates (top left), the Jelly Belly Cloud Gate (bottom left), and a fashion show featuring candy dresses (right). The charity event was started to help Abigail Wodrich, now 7, who needed a kidney transplant as a baby. Wodrich (center), attends every year.

Candy dresses made of real French macaroons and chocolates, a Grim Reaper guarding the sweets, and, of course, piles and piles of gourmet food.

The French Pastry School’s annual For the Love of Chocolate charity event, held Saturday at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, delivered its typical extravagance to the sold-out group of 1,500 attendees.

More than 120 chefs showcased their best creations for the black tie affair, which also included a fashion show and Venetian Carnival-inspired theatrics from the Redmoon Theatre Company.

“It’s hard to... try to explain just the overall event and the emotion that you feel,” says Anne Kauffman, marketing director for the French Pastry School. “We try to explain that it’s like no other fundraising event that you’ve ever been to. Some people think that’s a line, until they actually attend.”

Among the chefs was Sarah Levy of Sarah’s Pastries and Candies in Chicago. Like many of the participating chefs, she’s a French Pastry School Alum.

“It’s so fun. It’s like stimulation overload in a good way. Honestly I think it all goes back to the French Pastry School and that’s why this event is so fun. It kind of reminds you why you got into the business in the first place,” she explains. “There’s chocolate every where you look.”

She started her company making chocolates in her mom’s kitchen, and although Levy specializes in bridal confections and cakes now, her table Saturday night was filled with toffee, salted caramel truffles as well as red velvet and chocolate macaroons.

Aside from getting her business’ name out there, she says the evening also offers her a chance to network with other chefs. For example, she made a sugar display for Gibbons Steak House to use during the event.

“It’s really fun to partner with other people,” she says.

Also at the event was Amy Hansen, of Amy’s Candy Bar. Her table, designed by Kat Rojina of Good Stock Designs, featured a variety of caramels, and mini cashew turtles.

It wasn’t just sweets in the spotlight though. Tim Graham from the Paris Club in Chicago showcased his lamb meatballs, while Carlos Peres, of Nick’s Fishmarket, served a lobster bisque.

“We’ve always had savory. You always need to counter balance that... so that we didn’t have everybody running around on a sugar high all night,” Kauffman says.

The event was started seven years ago as an effort to raise money for Abigal Wodrich, a little girl who needed an kidney transplant. Now 7 years old, she healthy and loves candy.

“She attends every year,” Kauffman says. “It’s her party, as she says.”

This year, she was the finale of the fashion show, and she walked down the stage in a pink princess dress made with real lollipops and gold accents, a pink crown and a magic wand.

“[It was] really exciting because I got to go on the stage, and I love going on the stage” she says.

Her dad David Woodrich served as her date.

“It’s something special. It’s really something special,” he says. “We just love being a part of it.”

Now, money raised from the event, which includes $200 tickets, goes to the For the Love of Chocolate Foundation. The foundation awards scholarships to students in the full-time programs taught by The French Pastry School at City of Colleges of Chicago.

For more information about For the Love of Chocolate, visit; for more information about the French Pastry School, visit