Remembering Mott Green: A Loss for Grenada and Worldwide Chocolate
|Mott Green in Amsterdam in 2012|
I learned a few things at the screening of the documentary Nothing Like Chocolate at the Cinema De Uitkijk in Amsterdam during the Origin Chocolate Event in October of 2012.
I knew that the Grenada Chocolate Company--a cooperative project distinct from some of its more highly publicized counterparts like Divine in both its primary commitment to producing cacao-based products for the local market and its genuine ability to produce world-class chocolate--had "made it" almost as soon as they made their first chocolate bar, when Chantal Coady of Rococo, Britain's grand dame of all things cocoa, championed the company in 2002. What I didn't know--the thing that I learned--was how hard founder Mott Green worked every day, on individual cocoa farms and in his factory, to make good on that accomplishment and to ensure that it would continue. Already an award winning chocolate maker, already a respected innovator in his field, in some ways already a legend, he struggled--the film showed--to control quality and cash flow even as (and sometimes because) production and orders increased. He persevered and he succeeded because the life that surrounded this chocolate--on a small island so different from the world he came from in Manhattan--intrinsically made so much sense to him. I learned from this honest portrait that both success and change should be measured over the long term.
I was also surprised to learn that Mott originally had a partner in the Grenada Chocolate Company, equally a maverick, named Doug Browne, but Doug had died of cancer as a very young man in 2008. I was touched to see how much Doug's life had meant to Mott and how he carried its impact with him over the great expanse of time.
The final thing that I learned about was the genuine opportunity (no guarantee, no sign-up sheet) for connection to this fascinating guy. After the film was over, I fumbled to the front of a frenzied crowd to introduce Mott to my friend Bette, another longtime expat resident of the tropical band of the Americas, because I saw the same expansiveness and curiosity in both of them. Mott, from what I saw on screen and in person, was a quiet and very definitely private person. He was also modest, patient, and generous. "Come visit me," he said to Bette as we were leaving, and she repeated the invitation to me on the bus ride home, thinking about when and how she might, perhaps even stowing away with the three Dutch sailors who carried Mott's chocolate across the Atlantic in a motorless boat.
Bette and many others will not be able to learn directly from Mott in Grenada because he died in a work-related accident last week. There is not much in the news about this sudden and very poignant loss, though I have found obituaries on an arts and culture site from the Caribbean and in an Israeli newspaper. Remembrances of a private and very effective man.