SAN FRANCISCO — Robert Steinberg, a family doctor who helped popularize artisan chocolates in the U.S. through the company he co-founded, Scharffen Berger, has died. He was 61. Steinberg died on Sept. 17 in San Francisco of lymphatic cancer, according to a company statement. “Robert’s vision to make a world-class chocolate was a personal pursuit of both flavors and knowledge,” said John Scharffenberger, a former patient of Steinberg’s who co-founded the premium chocolate company Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. Steinberg was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1989, and left his medical practice to follow his passion for food and cooking. His science background and love of cuisine proved to be a perfect combination for becoming a chocolatier. After finding little help from chocolate makers in the U.S., Steinberg went to France to study under a small family business, Bernachon. He was hooked. Steinberg and Scharffenberger made their first chocolate in Steinberg’s kitchen in 1996, testing 30 types of cacao beans to get the right flavor.
They soon joined forces, bought a machine from a chocolate factory in Germany and made their first bar of chocolate the same year in a small factory in South San Francisco. Hershey’s bought the company in 2005, and Scharffen Berger bars now are prominently displayed at grocery stores nationwide.