This weekend’s gloomy weather may have dampened some people’s spirits as well as their shoes, but not a single downtrodden face was to be seen at the fifth annual LA Cookie Convention & Sweets Show. This was the second year that the sweetest convention in SoCal set up shop at the Anaheim Convention Center and the first year that it received sponsorship from Disney. Naturally, the Weekly was drawn to the intoxicating aromas of the myriad pastries and similarly saccharine samples and sale items — so much that we put off that diet we’ve been meaning to go on since the holidays ended.
Dozens of vendors populated a large portion of the convention center to showcase their tasty delectables while various stages hosted cooking demonstrations and competitions over the course of the two-day event (Feb. 2-3). The only non-sweets-themed component of the show — unless we count the two, lonely, food trucks parked in the rain just outside the main convention hall building — was a three-car car show whose centerpiece was a replica Back to the Future DeLorean that was being patrolled by R2-D2, who was sporting a black chassis.
These action movie-themed components were testament to LA Cookie Con CEO / founder Todd Tei’s inspiration for the event. While this reporter literally ran after Tei — who was bolting from one side of the convention hall to the other to coordinate various aspects of his convention and feed his daughter, who was in tow — he explained that he is a San Diego Comic-Con fan. After experiencing the extremely popular convention and the dedicated crowds that attend it, the idea occurred to him that a convention based around sweets could draw in a community of foodies and confectionary vendors. Now, he and Ayia Alfagir, Tei’s vendor relations manager, are preparing to expand their operation to include the non-sweets-exclusive Chef Con, later this year.
Meanwhile, vendors from throughout SoCal showcased their unique pastries, baking supplies, and food-related artwork. Sweets-wise, there was something for everyone. To name several: for folks wanting a cold, sweet beverage with body, there was Joe’s Italian Ice; for folks with dietary restrictions, there was Light and Healthy Desserts, which specializes in gluten-free pastries; for those in need of / in want of medicinal sweets, there was Dr. Norm’s cannabis-infused varieties; and for movie-themed goodies, there was 2 Geeks Who Eat, whose Mother Ginger Crinkle Cookies (recipe inspired by The Nutcracker & the Four Realms) were an official Disney promotion for the convention.
While goodies were being sold and sampled throughout the convention, celebrity chefs like Ron Ben-Israel, Adriano Zumbo, and Rosanna Pansino provided demonstrations and judged competitions on the Main Stage. Elsewhere in the hall, children decorated their own cookies, got their faces painted, or played with bubbles at the Bubblepop area. Alfagir’s sister, Hadel, who was a volunteer at the event pointed out that the latter components were new this year. She said, “Other years…people were attending to have the dessert experience. We never had the kid zone; we never had stuff that was really focused on giving the family an experience…but we started to realize over the years that a lot of people bring their families, and this year we kind of tailored it to that…this year Disney sponsored the event, and those are things that we specifically sought out because we had [a family-oriented goal] in mind.”
The children’s zone wasn’t the only benefit that the convention had for children. According to the festival’s website, “100% of all competition fees is donated to Smile Train & Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Charities.” Now that the convention has ended, and it is time to get back to that diet, it is additionally challenging to do so — knowing that there are so many newly discovered places to get delicious and designer goodies all over Orange and LA Counties.