Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Meet the Man behind FINE & RAW Chocolate

Today, Sisters and Brothers of The Chocolate Cult I want to introduce you all to a new brand of chocolate and to the person behind that brand. The brand is FINE & RAW Chocolate out of Brooklyn, NY, USA. The founder of this company is Daniel Sklaar. I hope after reading our email interview with him that you'll leave some comments to ask questions or just let us and him know what you think about this new brand.

Let's begin at your beginning. Before you got into the food industry, you were in the finance industry. That's a big change. What inspired you to make that career change?

It wasn't necessarily a decision as much as a journey or process of unfolding decisions over a long period of time. I guess the first thing was deciding to leave finance. Once I left that industry I had no idea where I was going to end up. It took about a year and a half of following all the things that excited me on a daily basis to land up in chocolate.

What drew you to chocolate versus any other facet of the food industry?

Chocolate is so exciting to me. I'm a chocoholic. I've been obsessed with chocolate my entire life. Don't get me wrong, I'm a foodie too. It's just that something in chocolate speaks to me on a deeper soul inspiring way. It's not easy to describe. 

FINE & RAW is a bean to bar business. How did you train to learn all of the those steps necessary to go from cacao bean to chocolate?

I'm self-taught. So that means a lot of trial and error and youtube'ing and speaking to people. Really it boils down to eating a lot of experiments. 

"Raw" chocolate is really created using lower temperatures which for some people raise health concerns even though there are also claims of health benefits from less processed foods. Why did you choose to go toward less extreme temperatures the bean processing?

I love the "superfood" aspects of cacao. It's a tremendously healthy food - it's the highest antioxidant food source we know of with more than 40x the antioxidants than blueberries. As for the concerns you mentioned, we flash roast our beans so the shells get roast and the inside nib stays raw. This way, the shells which are the main culprit for issues, get sanitized while keeping the nib raw. It's sort of the best of both worlds.  

Legally, chocolate cannot have added fats -- it should be chocolate liquor/solids, sugar, and cocoa butter -- unless the added fats are part of an added ingredient like chocolate peanut butter cups where the chocolate has not added fats but the peanut butter obviously does. So do your creamy chocolates have added fats to the chocolate itself?

No.

That's the answer we want to see here!

From handcrafted bars to an online chocolate business is a big step. Has how you created your bars changed at all with an increase in sales?

One thing we continually work on is the quality of our chocolate. Besides the love and passion that we put into making chocolate, the quality of our ingredients and work is our highest priority. During the time that it's taken sales to grow we've spent considerable effort into building better relationships with the farmers and suppliers of our ingredients. I would even go as far as to say that the quality has increased as we've increased in size and experience.

Where would you like FINE & RAW to be in five years? Would you like to be in shops around America or the world?

In 5 years we'd like to be a much bigger company working on super creative projects with exciting partners. We already have a small global reach and hopefully that will continue to flourish and expand. We love our chocolate and think that it has such a positive influence on peoples and their lifestyles - we'd like to share that with more people.

Let's tackle some fun questions, Daniel, for our final few. Not everyone in the business of chocolate is a chocolate lover (shocking, right?). Do you consider yourself a chocolate lover and if so, when did that begin for you?

I'm am absolutely obsessed with chocolate. Way before I got into chocolate I had friends who didn't like chocolate but would keep chocolate in their homes specifically for when I would visit! Just to give you an idea of my reputation for chocolate.

If your different varieties of products -- bars, truffles, spreads -- do you have a favorite one?

I bounce around with different chocolate styles. Sometimes I'm in the mood for dark, sometimes I'm craving a spoon of chocolate hazelnut butter spread. I'm really all over the place! 

Chunky Group from FINE & RAW
What is your best selling product?

Our chunky's are our best sellers. They are a mix between a truffle and a chocolate bar. So they look like a cross between a chocolate bar and a giant truffle. Best of all they have a soft creamy center!

So, Readers, I know that some of you live in or near Brooklyn so I'm curious: Has anyone had this brand of chocolate before? Have you visited the shop at 288 Seigel Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206? Do you have any follow up questions for Daniel?

Leave comments and let us know!

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