Despite a growing consensus that the Mast Brothers should be stripped of their beards and forced to relocate to Secaucus, the artisanal Williamsburg chocolatiers are standing tough against the tsunami of hate that crashed down upon their precious shores this week. In response to a lacerating series of articles questioning the integrity of their products—and allegations that their luxury candy bar empire was built on deception—Rick Mast has published an open letter on his website criticizing the chocolate industry.
"We have spent precious time away from our family on the week of Christmas to manage a senseless, mean-spirited 'takedown' by determined individuals with an agenda to harm our reputation solely for the purpose of their commercial or professional gain," Mast writes. "This is not the chocolate industry that we wish to be a part of. To that end, we will continue, as we have always done, to not participate in chocolate industry conferences, conventions, or competitions until the culture changes."
The letter also expands on an admission made to the Times earlier this week: that the Mast Brothers did not always sell "bean to bar" chocolate (meaning the entire process is performed by the chocolate-maker). Before they opened their factory, Mast concedes that the company "tested with couverture Valrhona," which means they used mass produced melted-down chocolate to make supposedly artisanal candy bars. This was, as they put it to the Times, "a fun experimental year." We've all been there—everybody had that one year in college when the dorm room was coated in cheap chocolate sauce.
But Dallas food blogger Scott Craig, who stirred up this shitstorm earlier this month, believes the Mast Brothers were selling Valrhona-made chocolate for longer than a year. Others say that when the company went fully bean-to-bar, the results were not impressive, to put it mildly. In any case, Craig's expose has pulled the curtain on what appears to be widespread disdain for the Mast brothers within the insular gourmet chocolate industry.
"I've been calling this Schadenfreude Christmas," Aubrey Lindley of Portland's Cacao tells Willamette Week, an alternative Portland weekly. "If someone wants to make bad chocolate, that's not [a] problem—there's so much bad chocolate out there. But I don't want it to be misrepresented."
Lindley refuses to sell Mast Brothers' products in his store—he calls it "simply inedible, by my standards." But the allure of fancy packaging and prices that imply "luxury" will no doubt prove stronger than a small cabal of upscale chocolate industry insiders. The Mast Brothers may be having a rough Christmas, but something tells us their $10 candy bars will still fly off the shelves of that Williamsburg Whole Foods when it opens next year.