About Us

Originally we just wanted a way to hang out with the fun people at steampunk conventions. We thought about several ideas--an airship crew, making and selling various steampunk accessories--but everything we came up with was already being done, and done well, by others. But nobody was making chocolate. What better way to make people happy than by creating some delicious and innovative chocolates? But we didn’t really know much about making chocolate at the time. We had a lot of work to do.

Our premiere event was the 2012 World Steam Expo in Dearborn, MI, and we made all the mistakes--we paid retail price for our raw materials, we spoiled some of our products by not letting them cool for long enough--like many entrepreneurs, we really had no idea what we were doing at first. We had a great time sharing our creations at the con, but we were fully expecting to take a loss. Imagine our surprise when we ran the numbers and discovered that we broke even! We’ve been refining our process and pushing the envelope of creativity ever since.

For example, our dark chocolate pocket watch is flavored with orange oil, which makes it our Clockwork Orange. We’ve also created a confection flavored with coffee and cardamom, one of the chief ingredients in Turkish coffee. We present that in the shape of a locomotive engine and call it the Orient Espresso.

Up until now, Sweet Steam products have only been available at conventions. We’ve tried to bring something new to each convention. Teslacon 6 was a Wild West theme, we created Sheriff Daly’s Sarsaparilla Stars--a milk chocolate sheriff badge that tastes like a root beer float. We were astonished that the stars sold out by noon on the second day! When the stars were equally well received at the next Steampunk World’s Fair, we knew we had something.

That’s the genesis of the Roustabout Bar. A product that not only would capture the magic and wonder of a steampunk convention but also could fit easily on any store’s shelves. But to get it there, we need your help. Click the green button to help get the Roustabout Bar into stores.

The Team

Jeff Berndt

Jeff’s always been a bit eccentric. He’s been a LARPer, a warden at an Irish youth hostel, a musician, an actor, a screenwriter, a stay-at-home-dad, a freelance writer, and a knowledge management specialist.

During his time freelancing, he joined a group of creative entrepreneurs. At about the same time, he and some of the rest of the group went to their first steampunk gathering. The whole group recognized the positive energy of the steampunk world and wanted to be a part of that. They soon realized that chocolate was an unfilled niche in the Steampunk world, and along with the rest of the group, Jeff tapped into his imagination to create new shapes and flavor combinations to appeal to his fellow steampunks. The group poured their creativity and energy into getting ready for their debut event.

That first venture--the World Steam Expo--wasn’t exactly a smashing financial success. The group broke even. But the feedback they got from their fellow steampunks made Jeff realize that this was where he wanted to be.

R. Darrow Bernick

The first time I walked into a steampunk convention I was amazed by the imagination, the magic of it all. I remember thinking to myself that I really wanted to be a bigger part of all the show and the glitter and the glamour.

At the time, I was running a small support group for artists that were also entrepreneurs. Every other week we would meet, our little group, to talk about our individual projects and works of art that we were trying to turn into some sort of actual business venture, and up until that point, all of our projects were isolated from each other. We had talked about perhaps doing some sort of group project, but we had never joined forces.

During one of our meetings, we all were sitting around talking about steampunk conventions and what a unique experience they were. Each of us wanted to get to know the people of Steampunk more than we were able to during our brief interactions by attending a concert or sitting through a discussion panel or two. So, we decided to put our collective creative skills to use and start a project that would allow us to meet more people.

We learned to make chocolate. It seemed like a good choice, since we hadn’t seen anyone else doing it at conventions. We learned to make molds for chocolate. After all, we wanted our confections to be shaped in new and exciting ways. We learned how to decorate the chocolate so that it would look like metal gears and pocket watches. We learned to flavor chocolate so that it would taste wonderful with combinations like cinnamon and cayenne pepper or espresso and cardamom.

Up until that first convention, the joy of making chocolate simply boiled down to how much fun it was to spend time with friends and fellow artists. However, the moment I gave that first sample of chocolate to my first customer at our first steampunk convention and, for the first time, watched an honest-to-goodness “chocolate happy dance”, my enjoyment changed to passion. I had gotten to see the face of someone who ate this new and interesting flavor and who had TRULY loved it. That person’s reaction changed the joy of making chocolate for me. Suddenly making chocolate meant connecting with new people. Suddenly I learned making chocolate could make other people happy and, in turn make me happy. Now, I’m hooked.

Doug Richter

Doug has spent his life pursuing creative endeavors and great tasting chocolate. So these two pursuits were to inevitably collide, and they have, with Sweet Steam.

He has been drawing since he could hold a pencil, at first comics, then conforming to whatever art teachers gave “A” grades for producing. Upon reaching high school he was planning on being the next Frank Lloyd Wright but the architecture program was cancelled and the hole in his schedule got filled with art classes. Realizing he could have all the creative fun without all the math classes was a revelation. This led him to one of the region's greatest art schools, The Center for Creative Studies, as a dual major of illustration and graphic design.

Doug has built a career in advertising/commercial art that has spanned decades. Starting in small studios with large clients that he felt gave him the broadest opportunities to get the diversity of projects he craved. But he still craved something else . . . chocolate. And this is where Sweet Steam comes into the story, with a passionate group of compatriots chocolate was brought back into his creative sphere in the most delightful way. And he has been loving every minute of it!

Joe Becker

A Detroit expatriate that yearns to create, learn, and be part of something bigger. Chocolate is that something bigger. Starting out as a creative in the art of Graphic Design he meandered his way into an International and E-commerce Marketing Director. Joe is ecstatic to join the Sweet Steam Team and lend his talents in branding and marketing. There at the beginning but took a long hiatus, is now back and inspired by his three friends and how hard they work and the time they spent building their love for this brand. It’s time to make a better world one morsel at a time.