Maya Schoop Rutten grew up in Switzerland loving chocolate, and, in 2007, she brought that passion to Santa Barbara by opening Chocolate Maya, her most amazing store.
“Chocolate is a delicate confection that needs to be handled with a lot of love and care,” she explained. “Right after opening the shop, I understood that I needed to learn and teach others about the whole process of making chocolate — where the beans are grown, who grows them, and how they are processed into chocolate.”
Today, she travels the world visiting cacao growers, and all the scrumptious confections that you find in her store are made with the highest quality ingredients and ethically grown. There’s not a dinner in my house where I don’t serve her chocolates at the end, which makes me look like the best host in the world. So treat yourself with a visit to her chocolate emporium, and you’ll feel like Alice in a very sweet Wonderland.
Maya took time away from her travels and chocolate-making to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you most value in friends?
Loyalty and unconditional love. I am lucky to have amazing friends. I remember when I arrived in Santa Barbara in 1982 with just $200 in my pocket: the generosity and trust of the people I met was so heart-warming. I know this is why I stayed in this amazing country.
What do you like most about your job?
Creativity, the freedom to try anything. Traveling to cocoa countries, meeting the farmers, putting my hands in the cocoa fermentation crates. I also love listening to people tasting chocolate in the chocolate lounge; the sound effects are very rewarding.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Simply starting the day with a top-notch chocolate tasting. But more so, when the kids were growing up, we had dinner every night around our beautiful round wooden table. We talked about our day, the world, our next trip, and ourselves. Now they are in college, so those dinners are a luxury. When they come home it is pure joy. I cannot think of anything more precious.
What is your greatest fear?
My children getting hurt.
Who do you most admire and why?
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, for his visionary aptitude. “Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.” This quote really resonates with me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Quality food: I can spend a fortune eating at the best restaurants. And Occhiali eye glasses!
What is your current state of mind?
Right now I am in Paris with my daughter, helping her settle in her new studio. She is starting Sciences Po University. So my state of mind is ecstatic!
What is the quality you most like in people?
Honesty and open mindedness.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
I most dislike racism and prejudice.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I think I can be identified by my stubbornness, and my perfectionism with a touch of funk!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
According to my kids, “progressive” and “evolution”.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to play the cello and the saxophone tenor.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I had a multi-ethnic background so I could blend in more easily wherever I travel.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My son and daughter. They are amazing! I can leave this world knowing my legacy is going to make a positive impact.
Where would you most like to live?
In Santa Barbara, of course! I could not live without traveling the world the way I do, but coming home to Santa Barbara is always gratifying.
What is your most treasured possession?
My family and life. As I get older, anything materialistic, as much as I love nice things, is becoming less important.
What makes you laugh the most?
I can’t tell you. I think it is illegal!
What is your motto?
To have a plan B: always be ready.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I admire lots but I don’t feel like I’m in a position to compare myself to any of them.
On what occasion do you lie?
On two occasions! I eat more chocolate than I imply. And my Fiat 1969 is NOT actually equipped for street racing.