I didn’t think field trips could get any better than grade school visits to the zoo, the science center or the monuments in Washington, D.C. But when Chef Jenny McCoy announced our class would be visiting Mast Brothers Chocolate Makers and OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn, I had a feeling this field trip would top them all. What I didn’t realize, however, was that this particular field trip would inspire a possible focus for my career path in pastry.
After a long workday, it was comforting to walk into the Mast Brothers factory to be greeted by the warm aroma of chocolate. (By the way–did you know Rick Mast is an ICE Culinary Management alum?) Unlike some store/factory hybrids, almost all of the production at Mast can be seen from the entrance, as glass windows reveal a large aging and tempering room. What’s most impressive about this small company is that they produce all of their chocolate from bean-to-bar on-site.
In other words, the Mast brothers are creating their product entirely from scratch. They receive beans from all over the world—with unique flavors highlighted in their single origin bar series, made with only two ingredients: cocoa and organic cane sugar. I was surprised to notice the flavor difference between bars from Tanzania and Peru, just like you might find with wine or coffee. The factory also produces bars in unusual flavors, including black truffle and even goat milk chocolate! The brothers are also brewing their version of a nonalcoholic “beer,” which has an impeccable, chocolatey resemblance to stout. About one hundred tastings later, our class left Mast Brothers in high spirits.
Leaving Mast’s sleek, modern, innovative space, we headed to OddFellows, where the aesthetic is just the opposite. At this seemingly old-school ice cream parlor, the menu is anything but, featuring flavors like miso-cherry, “ants on a log” (celery sorbet!) and cornbread. These zany ideas spring from the creative mind of OddFellows owner Sam Mason. Best known as the former pastry chef at the molecular gastronomy restaurant wd~50, Mason is exploring the boundaries of taste, texture and technology at his new venture.
Ice cream has always been near and dear to my heart—I’m from Ohio, home of Graeter’s and Jeni’s, after all—but after this visit, I’ve realized my passion for this frozen treat goes way beyond a cone and some sprinkles. Experiencing such unique flavor combinations in a classic dessert was an eye opener. Mason’s small team is always brainstorming new ideas and flavoring methods, and our brief tour of the kitchen was enough to convince me that ice cream is a career path I would be interested in pursuing.
I’m starting to imagine creating ice creams at home—from innovative ways to incorporate unique and savory ingredients to researching the benefits of different ice cream machines. Like most great ideas, all it takes is one “aha!” moment to realize something feels right. OddFellows may just have been mine.
Click here to learn more about the Pastry & Baking program at ICE.