Daniel Sklaar, a native South African, moved to New York in 2003 with an adventurous spirit and a love for chocolate. He worked in the world of finance followed by an extensive world traveling phase. In 2006, inspired by the creative process of working with food, Daniel became a chef and quickly moved into his passion of making, and eating… chocolate.

He started FINE & RAW in a secret chocolate lab (aka: artist loft) in Williamsburg in 2007. He would make small batches for his friends and sell to local vendors, delivering the goods via bicycle. After realizing his organic chocolate was a hit, he moved his trusty chocolate manufacturing operations to Bushwick, Brooklyn and became a full-on bean-to-bar artisan facility. In this new space, Daniel hosts curated events and explores creative whims and possibilities in the realms of chocolate.

We caught up with Daniel while in New York to ask him to share some of his secrets to success and a happy life. (We also wanted some chocolate.) Here is what he had to say:

1 | Fort Tilden– This is one of the best escapes from New York without leaving New York. Fort Tilden is a beach a couple miles away from JFK and gives the feeling like you’re in the far reaches of Central America.

2 | Union Square Farmers Market– There’s nothing like going to a farmers market to find inspiration. I love cooking at home, but often get bored with my recipes. Hitting up a market and seeing what’s in season always gives me new ideas and energy to get creative in the kitchen.

3 | The Get Down– This is a monthly dance party in NYC. It’s from 7pm-10pm usually at the Cielo club in the Meatpacking district. You go there to dance your ass off… then leave at 10pm and get up fresh the next morning. Genius!

4 | Yoga– I have a mixed relationship with yoga. I love it and I find it frustrating. Regardless, whenever I’m doing regular yoga I notice I’m a much happier and nicer human.

5 | Swimming– I love going to my local pool in Brooklyn and doing laps. It’s great exercise and helps me get into my body. I also find doing cardio very meditative, and many ideas come to me when my heart rate is above 130 for an extended amount of time.

6 | Alan Watts– I love listening to Alan Watts podcasts. He’s a philosopher from the 70’s who mostly speaks about Eastern religion. I find it really insightful to listen to someone from an era when Eastern ideas were unheard of to us. He has a freshness and “it is what it is” point-of-view that really hits the heart of many deep topics. His 70’s dry humor is particularly charming too.

7 | Family– Well what do I say here? Family is everything. I live far from my family and speak with them daily on WhatsApp. My family gives me so much nourishment and support on all the right levels (even in those instances when it doesn’t seem like it). Then, of course, there are my chosen family/friends who I couldn’t live without either.

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