I can’t imagine the American craft chocolate scene without Art Pollard, nor can I remember the first time I met him. All I know is, if there’s fine chocolate in the vicinity, Art is there. Art is a tinkerer, a rambling speaker, and was arguably the one to put American craft chocolate on the map. He set standards for sourcing high-quality beans, prices that reflected their quality and his dedication, and he does it all from his factory in Orem, Utah.
Art is a former physicist, and like most of the physicists I’ve met, he’s a bit wacky. I mean that in the best of ways. (However, he isn’t left-handed. In a totally unscientific study conducted by me, 80 percent of physicists are left-handed. I base this on the observation that four of my five physics professors in university were southpaws.)
I caught up with Art at the 2012 Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle.
What is Amano Chocolate known for?
We make chocolate. Actually, we make some of the world’s best chocolate and I’m not just saying that, because it’s actually true. We make award-winning chocolate. We started shipping in February of 2007. We were forced into it by an article from National Public Radio saying that we were one of the best chocolates made in America. Somehow or another they had ended up with some samples of our chocolate early early on, before we launched, and then they came out with this article and we looked at each other said, gee, I guess we just launched. And so we had to turn on the website really fast.
How did you come to chocolate?
I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is where the national lab is, so I was always building and designing things. And I was working for the physics department at my university when I was a student and I’m sitting there eating a German chocolate bar and said boy, it would be really cool to make my own chocolate. And everybody said, you can’t do that, it’s too difficult.
They were actually right but I didn’t know that at the time. And so I filed it away with a number of really cool projects that physics and foodie types typically have. And some years later, I got wowed by some confections from Europe that were far and away better than anything I’d ever had before, and I came back and started experimenting…and it’s been one wild ever since.
Do you have a favourite product?
They’re all my babies. I love each and every single one of them and it’s a matter of mood, when you ask. It’s like kids.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job? All the really great people I get to meet.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
You know, for any small business owner they’ll always tell you the same thing. Personnel is the most challenging part of the job. It’s hard finding good-quality employees and personnel, and generally most small business owners will kind of agree on that.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making chocolate?
Odds are that I’d be writing code. My background is writing search-engine technology. But it would be cool, whatever it was. I don’t do anything unless it’s cool.