Controversial Chocolatiers Return to New York, Open Upper West Side Boutique
Upper West Siders with a sweet tooth can be spoiled. Here we have the Mast brothers, Rick and Michael, who left Brooklyn in 2019 in the aftermath of a production scandal triggered by a culinary blogger who questioned their “bean to bar” chocolate making process. Now the Mast Brothers are back in New York – with a new Mast Market at 353 Columbus Avenue, between West 76th and West 77th streets.
The scandal revolved around the early days of the Mast Brothers, when they touted a “bean to bar” process that was just as trendy as their future storefront location in Williamsburg. In full-fledged hipster fashion, Rick and Michael, both with long beards, were making names for themselves in the chocolate game by leveraging this ‘bean to bar’ marketing strategy, which meant they were making their chocolate from scratch. They were among the first to make chocolate this way in America, and they said they did it from the start, in 2006, before incorporating in 2007 and moving to Brooklyn.
Then in December 2015, DallasFood.org released an explosive report, stating that “The fine chocolate community despises the Mast Brothers because they are believed to have started their business with a fundamental fraud: that of claim to be a chocolate company from the bean to the bar. Scott Craig’s article alleged that the Mast Brothers were in fact melting pre-made chocolate, then molding it into bars and repackaging it, as evidenced by the large quantities they produced with such limited equipment. Following these accusations, the Mast Brothers write a letter denying all allegations.
The chocolate controversy quickly attracted the attention of New York Times, and writer Sarah Maslin Nir interviewed Rick Mast in December 2015. ”… on the claim that the masts were early“ remoulders ”, Mr. Mast confirmed that the brothers used industrial chocolate, which the ‘it’s called the blanket, in some of their early designs, before settling on the bean-to-bar process they’re now known for, ”Nir wrote.
Rick Mast went on to tell The Times “It was such a fun experimental year,” adding that the brothers were transparent “to anyone who asks.” In the letter they wrote a few days before, they wrote “We have been open and transparent about our experiments, techniques and recipes since day one.”
More openings on the Upper West Side
The “bean to bar” process isn’t the only thing the Mast brothers have been called upon to do. In a 2015 Slate story, Megan Giller wrote that “Many skeptical scholars argue that Mast’s Brooklyn location, hipster image, and beautiful packaging are the real reasons for his popularity, not his taste.” The Slate piece went on to quote chocolate experts on their opinions on Mast chocolate.
- “If you were to ask the world’s best chocolate reviewers to rate bars, Mast Brothers would hit the bottom 5 percentile. “-Gordon clay – Judge of the Good Food Awards and author of Discover chocolate.
- “There are flaws in every bar, and the chocolate is bad.” –Eagranie yuh, writer, chocolate educator and International Chocolate Awards judge.
With its new Upper West Side store about to open, Mast Market offers a range of coffee, tea, books and housewares, as well as their famous chocolate. Their location at Mount Kisco is currently rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google. One person wrote: “A great place to have coffee, good chocolate and meet other people. A good alternative to Starbucks down the street. Both the interior and exterior are carefully designed.