The rain was coming down hard. Traffic was horrific. And it was hard to find the buses. But they came. Candy Industry’s 72nd Kettle Awards reception continues to be the premiere event of the U.S. confectionery industry and a powerful draw.
Besides, what are a few raindrops and traffic angst — most urban dwellers should be familiar with that experience — when compared to seeing the who’s who of this wonderful industry? As always, the Main Dining Room at the Union League Club continues to impress one and all with its stately grandeur.
And then there are the nominees: Shawn Askinosie from Askinosie Chocolate; Sara Clair from Brown & Haley; Steve Genzoli from Ghirardelli; and Kirk Vashaw from Spangler Candy Co. Each one of them epitomizes what leadership and service stand for in our industry.
As Robert Dono, confectionery manager for Bosch and this year’s Kettle Committee chairman, explained, “Each of our nominees can be proud of their distinguished service and track records of success. However, only one will be chosen as this year’s award recipient.”
Last night, that recipient was Sara Clair. It was evident that she was very moved upon receiving the gleaming copper kettle. Her face was aglow, almost matching the color of her red dress. It was a momentous occasion in the annals of the Kettle Awards, since this marks only the second time that a husband-and-wife team has captured the prize.
Ellen Gordon of Tootsie Roll Industries and the late Melvin Gordon were the first husband-and-wife pair to do so. Rather good company, I’d say.
During the dinner after the reception, Pierson Clair related how he first came to know Sara, wooing the budding chocolatier with 50 lbs. of free chocolate samples — he worked for Blommer Chocolate Co. back then.
Sara’s children, Elizabeth and Pierson IV, provided a loving picture of a mother that integrated her career, which embodies a passion for product development, into the family home. The kitchen became a staging area for discovery and knowledge, creativity and cleanup.
I’ve known Sara for a few years, going back to when Pierson received his Kettle Award in 2011. Energetic, enthusiastic, persevering, detailed and dedicated come to mind. Her work in helping establish and grow the National Confectioners Association (NCA)’s The Confectionery Foundation, coupled with her exceptional efforts in promoting the Western Candy Conference, truly are milestones worth noting.
But perhaps most important is her love and passion for this industry. As her husband Pierson exclaimed last night, it’s about the joy we as an industry bring to the world. And she — as well as our other nominees — brings it.
Again, congrats to you all. And thanks for bringing the joy with you.