Can you put down the turkey sandwich long enough to enjoy incredible gobs of chocolate? What about a 10-foot tree made out of Oreos?

Friday, November 26-Saturday, November 27: Because clearly you won’t be eating enough this week as it is, here comes the annual Dover Downs Chocolate Festival. It kicks off Friday at 10 a.m. at the Rollins Center and runs through Saturday evening.

The festival will feature a large variety of chocolate and candy exhibitors, an ice carving contest, gingerbread village (pictured), holiday gift selections, food for purchase, and holiday cooking tips.

Live entertainment includes holiday instrumentals, choral performances, and dance performances by Delaware Ballet Company. Even Santa will be in the house to take photos with kids.

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A new chocolaty feature melted into this year’s event is a 10-foot tree made entirely of Oreos. Constructed by Kraft Foods, the tree takes two days to assemble in the hotel lobby. Each graduated tier will be covered in chocolate and Oreos then festooned with chocolate ornaments and other decorative elements.

Chocolate Festival admission is free for all children younger than 18, and $5 for adults at the door to the Rollins Center.

Tease: I reviewed Santa Fe Wilmington for Delaware Today’s December issue. Check it out here. The food had its ups and downs (mostly ups), but I definitely agreed with the owner’s assertion that Latin cuisine in Delaware needs a swift kick in the rear end.

New book: Louis Eguaras has led a pretty interesting culinary life. Raised in the Philippines, his mother was an executive housekeeper at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manila. There, he studied chefs in the kitchen for hours, slowly developing a reverence for the controlled chaos of a pro kitchen. Eguaras found himself years later living in Wilmington, and eventually graduated from Concord High in 1991. He enrolled in the Navy’s Culinary Specialist program (which shares instructors with Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy) and was selected a year later to become a chef at the Camp David Presidential Retreat. There, he found himself cooking for some of the biggest hitters the early-90s had to offer, like George and Barbara Bush, Dan and Marilyn Quayle, British Prime Minister John Majors, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and more.

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The Navy eventually began to downsize Camp David and Eguaras was asked if he’d mind being transferred to the White House. Saying yes was a pretty easy decision. He plied his trade at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. between 1993 and 1995, again cooking for such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, the Rolling Stones, and of course President Bill Clinton.

From there Eguaras accepted a personal chef position in Hawaii, before returning to Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena as an instructor.

Eguaras’ first book, “101 Things I Learned in Culinary School” rates in the Top 20 in’s list of professional cooking books, alongside works by such culinary royalty as “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto and chef-restaurateur extraordinaire Thomas Keller.

I caught up with Eguaras last week and learned about “101 Things…”, his background, his time in Wilmington and the White House, and more. Here’s what he had to say:

♦ This is how the book landed on my lap. Matthew Frederick did a book called “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School.” Matt is an editor and illustrator and he holds the trademark for the “101 Things…” title. So he called up Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles (Pasadena) and interviewed chef instructors from our school, and eventually decided to work with me.

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He wanted concise and straightforward. I sent him some of my lessons on things like the history of food, techniques, stuff I learned in the industry, terminology. Stuff people might not be aware of. I did rewrites to make it more valuable for somebody who doesn’t know the terminology. At the same time, I get feedback from Cordon Bleu alumni saying it’s a great refresher for those who do know.

When I was doing a signing in Delaware, a lady just grabbed a copy and started reading. She said these are great and bought five copies. So that shows that you can take out valuable lessons quickly. To me that’s People like that it’s straight to the point and in a language they can understand. Chefs can be elitist so I was sure not to talk down to people. I’m a cook first. Executive chef is just a title.

This was my very first book, but I’m already thinking about my next book. It would be more about my life, an autobiography. So some about my life, and how I ended up where I did.

A lot of the foundation came from my mother. She’d bring us to the hotel in the Philippines where she was an executive housekeeper. My whole background was built at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manila. Learning the different facets of the hotel industry gave me foundation. She was not really surprised that I wanted to go into cooking. The chefs at the hotel would spend hours with me, and I loved watching the organized chaos they were in…the uniforms, the structure. Later, when I fell into the Navy, I knew what you were supposed to do, and where your place was in the whole structure.

I was very fortunate that while in culinary school, recruiters from Camp David called to see if any students wanted a chance to work there. I was like “Camp David…where the hell is that?” So I thought I’ll put my name down. You know, “cook for the president? Yeah sure whatever.”

As far as weird requests…hmm…President Clinton was lactose intolerant. So we had to do no cheese and no dairy with his dishes. Everybody else was usually pretty fine.

I moved to the Wilmington area in junior high. So from 1985 to 1991, I was there living in Brandywood. I started out washing dishes at Stanley’s Tavern. I’d walk over there, do my thing. I went and took pictures of the place last time I visited. It was fun kind of reminiscing, like, “Oh, there’s the door where I’d go into the kitchen!” I worked at Stanley’s throughout high school, and I remember it as a good experience. It definitely got my palate going in the right direction.

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