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Rick Mast

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Rick Mast is eldest of The Mast Brothers, the fraternal pair behind the eponymous Brooklyn-based chocolate company. Raised in Iowa, Mast trained as a classical pianist, eventually moving to California to pursue music. He later joined his brother, Michael, in New York, where he was working in the film industry. Mast enrolled in culinary school not long after his East Coast-relocation, and would go on to work in restaurants throughout New York, including Gramercy Tavern and Soho House. He also spent time working under renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres, a preview of chocolate-making endeavors to come.

While Rick Mast cultivated his culinary skills, the brothers explored their growing passion for food from their apartment, crafting delicacies in homemade pickling, brewing and baking experiments of all kinds. They eventually decided to try their hands at chocolate, alchemizing raw cocoa beans and sugar into chocolate bars in their apartment. In 2006, they decided to turn their new passion into a business, selling their chocolates at local markets.

The Mast Brothers, christened such in part as an attempt to bring some dignity back to a name slightly darkened by the small-town antics of their father and uncle, incorporated in 2007. As the first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers in America, they had to improvise as they developed their process, repurposing an Indian rice grinder into a cocoa bean grinder. A few years later, they moved the enterprise into a Brooklyn factory-cum-shop. The flagship store has since grown to a staff of twenty, and is accompanied by a brew bar offering chocolate beverages right next door. In February 2015, the brothers opened a second location in London, replicating the same combined factory tour/shopping experience of their Williamsburg location.

The bearded brothers bring to their business the slightly quirky, wholly original character so common in the growing artisan food movement. Not least of their unconventional ideas is their 2011 sailboat expedition, in which they sought to reduce their carbon footprint by transporting their beans with a little wind power. The brothers accompanied 20 tons of organic cocoa beans on a schooner journey from the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn, becoming the first company since 1939 to sail cargo to New York City. In addition to their seamanship, the brothers’ beards have garnered them some fame, becoming almost part of the brand itself. While the brothers had originally intended to shave them off after selling 1000 chocolate bars, that milestone has passed, and yet the beards remain.

Companies and Investments

The Mast Brothers Chocolate (Co-Founder)

Lessons Learned

We’re very different, but we work to each others’ strengths. The thing we say a lot is that there’s nobody that you’re going to fight harder with than your family, but there’s nobody that you’re going to fight harder for than your family. So when things get tough, you’ve always got that unconditional love from your brother. My brother might tell you different, but I basically do everything…. No, my focus tends to be more on the food and creative side of the operation. My brother’s background is in accounting, so he tends to be more on the financial side. (Rick Mast on utilizing complementary skills in the co-founder relationship, in an interview in Bon Appetit)

We define craft chocolate making as chocolate that celebrates the unique characteristics of its ingredients through superior execution. It’s celebrating the tangible things. We don’t really use the word artisanal around here. Artisanal, or anything to do with the word art or artistry is something we tell other people, it’s not a description of a certain taste or way of doing something. Somebody becomes an artist when they master their craft. Really what you do is seek to create through craftsmanship. You don’t seek to create just to be original. That’s not the point. Originality comes through a mastery of your craft. (Rick Mast on developing the craftsmanship and care to create truly masterful products, in a profile on Artisan & Apprentice)

The relationships! Everything else is about people… It’s our staff, it’s all our accounts, our farmers, our customers. It’s about people. That’s the beauty of human scale manufacturing. Everything is about people. The second you take away the human scale, you take away the human element. You lose the relationships. (Rick Mast on the intrinsic nature of the human element in business, in a profile on Artisan & Apprentice)

Inspiring Quotes

Rick Mast's Quotes

We are a dangerous company because we are outsiders to the chocolate industry, never leaning on industry norms.

Rick Mast

Inspiration is really happening all around us here in Brooklyn. There are so many people here doing great things and we all get a chance to feed off each other.

Rick Mast

We never wanted to be just another chocolate bar on the shelf.

Rick Mast

Food is always more enjoyable when you know where it comes from.

Rick Mast

If you don’t like chocolate, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re not a decent person.

Rick Mast

Influential Books