Brothers Rick and Michael Mast always knew they loved to make food; 15 years ago, when they decided to dip a toe into the world of handcrafted, high-quality artisanship, they figured chocolate was a good place to start. Enter 2020, says Rick, and “the COVID crisis gave us a kick in the pants and got us in tune with what we really want to do and what our community needs.”
Their pandemic-fueled aha moment was unequivocal: “Local, organic, well-made food shouldn’t just be a specialty item for wealthy people to buy for gifts. It should be accessible to everyone,” explains Rick. “And we have an obligation to support local agriculture and food systems and the health of our communities.”
With that mission-driven mindset, and in the same certified-organic facility in Mount Kisco where they roast fair-trade cacao beans in small batches and transform them into the freshest chocolate Westchester County has to offer, the brothers began roasting coffee beans, milling flour from whole-wheat berries sourced in Upstate New York, grinding almonds, hazelnuts, and fruit into nut butters and preserves, and using nearby Battenkill Valley dairy to churn butter and ice cream. They’re even dabbling in vinegar, and making 100% beeswax candles.
Some of what the Masts make is consumed in their on-site coffee shop (i.e., only their house-made flour is used in the baked goods they sell), and the rest they consider pantry staples available for purchase in their market. Artfully decorated shelves host an array of artisan items, including ancient grains from an upstate farm, Amish-grown heritage popcorn, sea salt hand-harvested off the coast of Maine, and, of course, an abundance of Mast-made chocolate, coffee, and flour. A refrigerator is stocked with locally raised heirloom eggs, cheese, and milk.
“The way you do one thing,” says Rick, referring to the slow and steady art of traditional, small-batch chocolate-making that he and his brother have perfected over the years, “is the way you have to do everything.”
To further achieve their overarching goal of bringing healthy, organic, sustainable food to the tables of all, regardless of wealth: “We’re confronting the price point head-on by working directly with the farmers and cutting out the middle man,” says Rick. And if their past accomplishments, drive, and mindful energy are any indication of what the Mast brothers can do, then they’re bound to make it.