Our focus is on celebrating confections – whether chocolate covered bon bons or gloriously simple caramels – produced using locally grown, natural, minimally processed ingredients that celebrate regional culture and tradition, highlight American terroir and exemplify excellence in the candy making craft. View the full criteria for entry.

Click here to view the 2018 Finalists.


Brittany Howlett is a baker, entrepreneur and writer who found her passion for serving and creating delicious and locally sourced food ignited when she moved to the Bay Area in 2004. Faced with the decision of applying for law school or embarking upon a creative career in the kitchen after graduating from UC Berkeley, she full-heartedly chose the latter and never looked back. She’s spent time working in both savory and confectionary capacities in San Francisco’s Sons & Daughters and Oakland’s Camino, Ici Ice Cream and Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland. In 2011 she co-founded the artisanal bakery Oakland Bakes where she designed and baked custom, seasonal and organic wedding cakes. She is currently putting her extensive knowledge of seasonal food production to good use at Sun Basket working as a liaison between the Test Kitchen’s chefs and national ingredient procurement teams.

Teresa Karolewicz, born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has had a life-long love for food and the way it brings people together. While studying art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she spent time abroad being immersed in the Italian food-centric lifestyle. This inspired her to fuse her passion for art and food into one, embarking on a career as a pastry chef on the West coast. After a few years pastry chef-ing in San Diego at Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant, she moved up to San Francisco where her love for everything Italian was put to use in the pastry departments of A16 and Locanda Osteria and Bar. She now connects to the world through food on a new platform at the headquarters of Sun Basket, where she works closely with the test kitchen as a recipe and content editor. While no longer slinging pastries in restaurant kitchens, Teresa still enjoys dreaming up and experimenting with recipes at home. When not playing with butter and sugar, you will most likely find her wandering the streets of San Francisco with a camera in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other.

Jesse Manis is the co-founder of Cacao, which celebrates flavor and quality, featuring a curated selection of chocolate bars from leading craft chocolate makers around the world, the best confectionary from Northwest chocolatiers, and a house-made selection of chocolate drinks. Jesse grew up making sweets for his family and learned the confectionary ropes at Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle before leaving to open his own business. Jesse has been a judge for the Good Food Awards, The Northwest Chocolate Festival, The International Chocolate Awards and a variety of regional chocolate events.  He lives with his husband Aubrey in Portland where he enjoys exercising, gardening, traveling and spending time with his dog Cooper.

Susie Wyshak (Chair Emeritus), Business Strategist & Writer,


Sophia Chang, Founder, Kitchener Oakland
Chuck Siegel, Founder & Owner, Charles Chocolates


Gina Conedera, Owner, Chunky Pig & Founder, Pavé Consulting
Chad Freilino, Chief Operating Officer, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
Kim Hastreiter, Founder, Editor & Publisher, Paper Magazine
Kitty Greenwald, Wall Street Journal
Mario Hernandez, Chef, The Order of the Fat Tongue
Coral Kellenty-Cohen, Store Manager, Glen’s Garden Market
Carolyn LaHorgue, Acquisitions Coordinator, Miramax
Tyler Malek, Co-Founder, Salt & Straw
Omar Mamoon, Dough & Co. & Huffington Post, Food Writer & Cookie Dough Entrepreneur
Todd Masonis, CEO & Co-Founder, Dandelion Chocolate
Alice Medrich, Author, Dessert Chef & Chocolatier,
Joanna Miller, Commercial Photographer, Joanna Miller ProductionsCookie Scout
Nell Newman, Founder, The Nell Newman Foundation
Aislinn Muir, Specialty Buyer, Tomales Bay Foods & Cowgirl Creamery
Avery Ruzicka, Head Baker & Partner, Manresa Bread
Peter Perez, Director of Public Relations & Communications, University of California Press
Michael Preysman, Founder, Everlane
Dave Selden, Chief Janitor & Creator, 33 Books Company
Heather Soto, Restaurant Critic & Consultant, HCS Consulting
Michael Washburn, Garden Manager, Blackberry Farm
Susie Wyshak, Food Business Author & Strategist, FoodStarter & Chocolate Chip Cookie School