Chocolate has never known such scandal. First, Slate called out Mast Brothers for making chocolate that was acknowledged, within the industry, for being generally bad. Then, blogger Scott Craig levied many accusations against the brothers, in a long exposé for not being, as the Mast Brothers had always claimed, purely bean-to-bar from day one. Finally, Quartz did a thorough followup on that piece, verifying most of what was claimed in the DallasFood.org investigation.
But the brothers’ only public response was: Deny, deny, deny. Until now.
In an interview with the New York Times on Sunday, brother Rick Mast finally admitted to remelting commercial chocolate in the early days before they settled on what the company claims really is its current, purely bean-to-bar production. He also gave it a nice rosy glow, “It was such a fun experimental year,” he summarized of their remelting process. Then he claimed they would have admitted this step to “anyone that asked.”
Which is, of course, precisely what they did not do when the entire Internet asked that question of them last week, issuing a public statement on their website that summarized: “We have been making chocolate from bean to bar since the beginning and will continue to do so.”
So, who really cares? The underlying issue is one that the Times summarized pretty neatly yesterday:
It has thrown into question not just the provenance of a chocolate bar, but the predilection for such goods, with perhaps larger implications for the picked-by-hand, farm-to-apartment movement, underscoring the fact that claims of homespun authenticity are not regulated, or often verified.
It’s disappointing when people and institutions we admire lie. I had the same experience this summer when I listened to a book on tape of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, only to learn afterward that almost everything in it was a complete fabrication. Suddenly, East of Eden, previously one of my favorites, was diminished in my mind.
The Mast brothers might not take down all of the recent fetishization of authenticity (something associated particularly strongly with Brooklyn) with their little remelting trick, but as the Times points out, we should at least take a closer look at what it is we’re admiring—and why.