Thursday, November 13, 2008
An Appreciation of Robert Steinberg
I first met Robert in April 1997. Agnes Lord told me about her friend Dr. Robert Steinberg who was starting a chocolate company with John Scharffenberger. She said they were looking for a public relations consultant and she’d recommended me. Robert brought a sample of his chocolate for me to taste. It was an early batch of the bittersweet 70% and was unlike any chocolate I’d had at that point – bold, fruity, and memorable. We talked of his life journey and why he and John started the company. The meeting must have gone well because I was asked to meet with John and was subsequently hired. The next several years were enormously exciting, rewarding and fun for me. I know that in the beginning, Robert had his doubts about PR and my methods, especially when he had to be convinced to pose with John buried up to their necks in cocoa beans for a magazine shoot! He came around though.
Long after I stopped working with Scharffen Berger, Robert always found the time to call me whether it was to gripe about a poorly researched article about chocolate, a book he was reading, who he was dating, his physical state, an under-the-radar restaurant find, or a new batch of cocoa beans that had come in. I was thrilled that he was feeling so healthy for most of 2008. He was traveling a lot and we only saw each other in passing – at the Orson opening, outside Bi-Rite Market where he purchased pickled herring regularly and at the Golden Glass event at Fort Mason in July where I bumped into him in a typical Robert pose - wine glass in one hand and head angled to one side while surveying the crowd with quizzical amusement.
I miss him enormously – his kindness, warmth, occasional rants and his sheer passion for life. I have been holding onto my last two limited edition bars – Porcelana and Jamaica à l’ancienne, but finally feel ready to open them up.
Robert, thank you so much for your friendship and your impact on my life which continues to grow as I meet the people who were so important to you.