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Meet the Maestro, Franco Andrade

As Mast Market’s production manager, Franco Andrade oversees the creation of chocolate, coffee, flour, nut butters, and other organic goods. He knows how to make each product from start to finish, and he trains every production employee in their roles and ensures that the processes run smoothly. His attention to detail and his talent for multi-tasking are unmatched. Even Martha Stewart herself gave him the nickname, “Maestro” during a recent visit to film her series Martha Cooks.

But the real reason that Franco is such an integral part of the Mast Market team is his positive nature. He brings joy and a sense of purpose to the team every single day and he inspires the people around him. “Franco is an incredibly focused and hard working leader and maker. Transitioning from an all-star maker to an all-star manager is not an easy one. Franco has been with us since we first opened here in Mt. Kisco and he’s family,” says Mast Market co-founder Rick Mast.

Perhaps Franco is so inspiring because he’s inspired himself—working in food production is his dream job. He studied production in his native Honduras before moving to the United States. Once he got here, he worked in restaurants until he finally found Mast Market. And now he’s running our entire production department. Here, Franco shares more about his career path, his immigration story, and his favorite parts of his job.

Mast Journal: How did you learn to produce chocolate, coffee, and all the other products you work with?

Franco Andrade: When I started this job, the previous production manager taught me what to do. At the time, we were only making chocolate. I continue my training with Rick, each time we add a new product. He’s the one teaching me to make coffee, flour, almond butter, and everything else.

MJ: Did you have experience with food production before this job?

FA: I worked in restaurants. I’ve worked with American, Italian, and Mexican cuisines. I’ve worked in the kitchen, as a line cook, but also as a server and a system manager. I’ve done it all.

MJ: Were you working in restaurants in New York City?

FA: No, I was working in restaurants in the Westchester area.

MJ: How did you end up in Westchester? Where are you from originally?

FA: I'm from Honduras. And then when I came to the country, I arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana.

MJ: That’s so cool. How old were you when you came to the United States? And why did you want to move here?

FA: I was 30 years old. I came here for safety reasons because I am gay and I'm proud to be gay. And in Honduras, it’s just complicated to be a member of the LGBTQ community. It's too dangerous. A lot of my friends and people I know were starting to be killed.

MJ: That’s so awful.

FA: It’s so sad. I came to this country just by myself and I worked in Mexican restaurants in New Orleans for three years.

MJ: Why did you move to Westchester?

FA: I came to New York because I was trying to follow my dreams and be happy. I think this is the state where if you have a dream, you come here.

Franco and Martha. Martha Stewart gave Franco his nickname, Maestro.

MJ: It definitely is! What was your dream?

FA: Well, I’m actually doing what I love now. I studied production in my country and always wanted to work in a factory. I love the process and seeing a product through from start to finish.

MJ: It’s that big feeling of accomplishment, isn’t it?

FA: Yes! So when I saw that Mast Market was going to open in Mount Kisco, I was curious because I love chocolate. I applied for the job in person and started working here four years ago.

MJ: That’s great! What is your favorite part of your job now?

FA: My favorite part? I think it's when I see the young people coming to our factory to watch the process and seeing the happiness on their faces. Customers stand by the window and workers come to train in the factory. It's very nice to see their expressions because chocolate is happiness.

MJ: It certainly is! 

FA: So everybody's happy. And that's what I love about my job—what I'm doing is for happiness.

MJ: That’s so special.

FA: That's special for me because it's cool to make something that makes people feel better. If you are feeling sad or mad, and you get a chocolate, you feel better.

MJ: You are so right. What is your favorite Mast chocolate bar?

FA: My favorite? Ooh, I have many. Sea Salt because I like the taste of the sea. I love the ocean and I love being on the beach, so I love that flavor. And Milk Chocolate, which reminds me of when I was a child.

MJ: Great choices. How do you make the chocolate? Is there a simple way to explain it?

FA: Well, we get the cacao beans from Tanzania. They are already fermented there. We roast them and remove the shells and grind them in a mill. We leave them in there for two days and then we have the chocolate. If we want a flavor or sweetness, we add ingredients. We can add sugar, lavender, raspberry, milk. We can make any flavor that we want.

MJ: And how does it become a bar?

FA: Then it goes into the tempering machine.

MJ: And then the bar is packaged?

FA: Yes, we have a wrapping machine that wraps the bar in foil and then we put them in the boxes by hand.

MJ: Wow—that’s a lot of work! How many people are working on packaging?

FA: We have four people doing that. They each package 1,000 chocolate bars every day.

MJ: That’s impressive! How long does the whole process take?

FA: Probably three days. We are making small batches, so we are always making chocolate by order.

MJ: What do you love about Mast as a company?

FA: A lot of stuff. I like that all the products are very healthy and organic, but also that they care a lot about the origin of the product. It’s not just about the organic label—it's where the product comes from. And I learn a lot from them. What I eat now and what I buy from the store—I want to know what kind of people are selling the food. 

MJ: The vendor is important! Where is the Mast coffee from?

FA: We have coffee from Honduras, where I come from, and I know the people who are growing the beans there. It's the coffee that we drink in my country. We also have coffee from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Peru.

MJ: That’s awesome. What other products are you working on?

FA: We have flour and almond butter. And we’re always making new products, which is good for getting more professional experience. We’re developing a hazelnut spread like Nutella and a walnut maple sugar butter. And we’re making seasonal strawberry jam.

MJ: Those all sound delicious.

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