Upper West Siders with a sweet tooth may be in for a treat. Here we have the Mast Brothers, Rick and Michael, who left Brooklyn in 2019 in the aftermath of a production scandal which was ignited by a food blogger who called into question their “bean to bar” chocolate making process. Now the Mast Brothers have returned to NYC – 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 Williamsburg storefront location. In full blown hipster fashion, Rick and Michael, both donning long beards, were making a name for themselves in the chocolate game leveraging this “bean to bar” marketing strategy, which meant they made their chocolate from scratch. They were among the first to manufacture chocolate using this method in America, and they said they did it from the beginning, in 2006, before incorporating in 2007 and setting up shop in Brooklyn.
Then in December 2015, DallasFood.org published an explosive report, stating that “The fine chocolate community scorns the Mast Brothers because they are thought to have launched their business with a fundamental fraud: that of pretending to be a bean-to-bar chocolate company.” The write-up by Scott Craig alleged the Mast Brothers were actually melting down pre-made chocolate, then molding it into bars and re-packaging it, as evidenced by the large quantitates they were producing with such limited equipment. Following these charges, the Mast Brothers penned a letter denying all allegations.
The chocolaty controversy quickly caught the attention of the New York Times, and writer Sarah Maslin Nir interviewed Rick Mast in December 2015. ” … on the claim that the Masts were “remelters” at the start, Mr. Mast confirmed the brothers did use industrial chocolate, what is known as couverture, in some of their early creations, before settling on the bean-to-bar process for which they are now known,” wrote Nir.
Rick Mast went on to tell the Times “It was such a fun experimental year,” adding that the brothers were transparent “to anyone that asked.” In the letter they penned days before, they wrote “We have been open and transparent about our experimentation, techniques, and recipes since day one.”
The “bean to bar” process isn’t the only thing the Mast Brothers have been called out on. In a 2015 Slate story, Megan Giller wrote that “Many skeptical specialists contend that Mast’s Brooklyn location, hipster image, and beautiful packaging are the real reasons for its popularity—not its taste.” The Slate piece went on to quote chocolate experts on their opinions of Mast chocolate.
- “If you were to ask the world’s top chocolate reviewers to rate bars, Mast Brothers would hit in the bottom 5 percentile.” –Clay Gordon – Good Food Awards judge and author of Discover Chocolate.
- “There are defects in every bar, and the chocolate is bad.” –Eagranie Yuh, Writer, chocolate educator, and International Chocolate Awards judge.
Sales dropped off for the Mast brothers in the wake of bad press. In 2019, they closed their Williamsburg chocolate factory and storefront and moved their operations to Mount Kisco.
With their new Upper West Side shop about to open, Mast Market offers an array of coffee, tea, books and housewares, as well as their famous chocolate. Their Mount Kisco location currently has a 4.5 out of 5-star rating on Google. One person wrote, “Great spot to grab a coffee, some good chocolate and meet with others. A good alternative to Starbucks down the street. Both inside and out is thoughtfully designed.”
If one doesn’t like the chocolate or the brothers then don’t buy it. As far as I’m concerned I can’t wait to give their chocolate a taste. Maybe that’s because the UWS is much more open and welcoming than hyper-hipster Brooklyn!
find that Jacques Torres on Amsterdam Avenue satisfies my sweet tooth as well as all of my guests’. I firmly believe that we all should support our local small businesses as much as possible. Many of us can’t afford the type of luxury housing that our representative Helen Rosenthal seems to by living in one of those apartments on that Riverside Boulevard where all of those skyscraper-like apartment buildings are. I suppose with her kind of salary she can afford a staff to not only do her grocery shopping but also keep her apartment immaculately clean. I guess it’s all about choices. What about Linda B. Rosenthal? She may like to think that she is the “original” Rosenthal. I always walk past her offices on the south side of West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue. For years there was an encampment of homeless people right in front of her offices. She couldn’t have not seen them. I have to wonder why she never bother to alert the NYPD, the NYFD or even call 311? I guess here again it is all about choices. She probably was so busy going to candlelight vigils with her buddy Helen.
I think we could have left all this information out welcomed them to the neighborhood and hope they succeed and let customers decide what they want and like. We need to fill these vacant storefronts and keep these stores in business.