Mike Orlando, Founder of Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate
As a young child, Mike was always interested in science and nature, and in general trying to figure out how things worked or how things were made. As he got older he realized he enjoyed the creative aspects of art as much as he enjoyed the analytical aspects of science. His career history led him from being a marine biologist SCUBA diving to collect data for researchers, to an analytical chemist analyzing unknowns, while his hobbies had him reading philosophy and playing percussion in a band.
After over 10 years of being a career scientist, he was lacking in creative outlets, so he started taking on new hobbies in my spare time--coffee roasting, restoring antique espresso machines, making cheese, baking, and eventually, during the process of building his own coffee roaster, he found chocolate making. He was hooked. The more he got into the chocolate making hobby, the more distant my interest in unknown samples became. About a year later he quit his job and with the little money in his savings became one of the only bean to bar chocolate makers in the country.
What started in his kitchen with a pound of cocoa beans, a juicer, and a toaster oven, has now turned into a small-scale artisan chocolate company, complete with a factory stocked with obscure, and in most cases, home-built or modified equipment, serving over 400 retail customers nationwide.
More info: http://www.twentyfourblackbirds.com