Ben Rasmussen founded the Washington DC area’s first bean-to-bar chocolate company – Potomac Chocolate Co. – in 2010 and has been sourcing cacao and processing it into delectable chocolate bars in his workshop ever since. Unlike mass-produced chocolate, Potomac Chocolate Co.’s bars are created by hand from start to finish. This meticulous attention to both the quality of the ingredients and the processing of them yields award-winning chocolate bars for even the most discerning palates. Check out Ben’s process on his website and make sure you head to GRUMP to pick up a few bars, too. Great as stocking stuffers and host gifts!
Describe your ideal day of making. What do you have for breakfast? What jams do you listen to? Do you wear fuzzy slippers?
When I actually get to spend a day of making, I typically shovel down some cereal for breakfast so I can get started quicker. I typically forget about lunch and then emerge from the workshop starving around dinner time. A lot of the chocolate equipment is pretty loud, so I’ll usually be wearing noise-cancelling headphones listening to music (usually Smoking Popes, Cure, Regina Spektor or lately a ton of Leonard Cohen). I usually have several batches of chocolate working at the same time, so I’ve got a lot of different tasks to take care of: roasting cacao beans, grinding & refining, molding, wrapping, etc. No fuzzy slippers, but I do wear flip-flops a lot.
Who is your maker-inspiration? What did this person say or do to inspire you to create?
I’ve been creative and have tinkered with stuff as long as I can remember. I don’t remember any specific incident that inspired me to be this way, but my parents have always been creative and (what we now call) makers, and have been definite and on-going inspirations. My mom is an incredible quilter and has dabbled in a few other crafts including painting, while my dad’s always been a tinkerer and builder, and over the years has created movies, played guitar, and written music.
In non-parental people, I find myself very inspired by Jiro Ono and his philosophy towards his sushi, which is basically a lifelong pursuit of incremental improvement day after day. If I’m ever discouraged or feeling burnt out, I can watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi and be inspired anew.
What is your favorite market/craft show story?
I don’t have a specific story that really stands out, but I do have a favorite part of being at markets and craft shows. I love it when I tell people all about my chocolate and how different origins of chocolate can taste very different. A lot of times it’s obvious that they are internally rolling their eyes (sometimes not even internally…) as we all grow up eating chocolate that all tastes relatively similar (you know, chocolaty). But, then when they actually try a couple different origins and see just how different they are, they have this holy-cow-I-never-knew-chocolate-could-taste-like-this moment. I vividly remember when I had that moment (December 23rd, 2009)–it blew me away then and is still my favorite part of craft chocolate. I love it when I get to be the one who facilitates that moment in others.
Are you working on any special merchandise for/inspired by GRUMP? Tell us about it!
The last time I did GRUMP, I introduced a 70% dark chocolate bar with chunks of peppermint candy canes on the back. I’ve made that a tradition each holiday season since and will have it with me at this year’s GRUMP, too. In addition, I’ve started making drinking chocolate this year (super thick and rich hot chocolate) and will have that for sale, too!
If you could have lunch with three artists/makers, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
1) Jiro Ono. He’d preferably be preparing the lunch.
2) Martha Stewart, because she’s super hardcore.
3) Whoever invented brutalist architecture, because it’s the best. All other architecture pales and trembles before it.
YARN – crochet
SNOW – skiing!
APPLE PIE – burnt caramel sauce (this is a painful memory, however)
NORTHERN VIRGINIA – home for life (also stop lights)
YETI – Say Hi To Your Mom
IGLOO – Pork belly
GNOME – Linux
NARWHAL – manatee
WINTER – not long enough
HANDMADE – usually better, always more interesting.