Magazine Editor Joan Steuer's Consuming Passion Is Chocolate—She Eats It by the Pound
05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
On good days, Joan Steuer, a slim blonde with a peaches-and-cream complexion and all her teeth, polishes off five pounds of chocolate. On bad days, she might manage only a pound. Steuer savors mousses, cakes, napoleons, tortes, truffles and candy bars. She nibbles on chocolate novelties: a $600 Monopoly set, computers, tennis balls, dog biscuits, a Noah's ark, a 5,000-calorie pig, a picture of herself, fettucini, pizza, croissants and Merv Griffin's ear. As if that is not enough, she drenches herself in chocolate perfume and sprays her New York office with chocolate scent love chocolate," she rhapsodizes, "the mouthfeel of density, texture, smoothness, creamy yet crunchy, the compound taste of dark and sweet."
Steuer, 26, is the editor of a new quarterly magazine, Chocolatier—and the final arbiter of every morsel that appears in each issue (No. 2 hits the stands June 4). So why isn't she swimming in zits? Why hasn't her 5'6", 118-lb. figure been blown hideously out of proportion?
"This business of chocolate causing acne is a myth," she explains. "And a little sugar will not change your body forever. Sure, I can put on two pounds, or three or five, in a week, but I lose it quickly, because I have a lot of energy and I exercise. Furthermore, chocolate has vitamins and minerals, though you shouldn't eat three pounds at one sitting. You have to balance out the chocolate with green leafy vegetables. On good days, I do that."
Not that every day at Chocolatier is a bowl of cherries. To find the perfect strawberry for a cover photo of Swiss fondue, Steuer and six coworkers picked over eight crates before splicing two berries together. Truth to tell, choco-journalism can sometimes be too much. "For our second cover we went through 140 scoops of vanilla with fudge sauce," Joan recalls.
Steuer's infatuation with chocolate had its beginnings when her parents took 6-year-old Joanie on what was supposed to be a no-bars-held tour of the Hershey plant in Pennsylvania. She dipped a finger into a tub and her parents were asked to pay. "It was a bathtub-sized vat," she remembers, "and the bill was $10,000. But my father is a lawyer and he argued that they should have watched me more carefully. At that, I had another lick."
Growing up in Cleveland with an older brother, Steuer was influenced by her mother, an excellent cook and sometime caterer, who liked to sit in the kitchen with a spoon in the fudge jar. "I'd announce I was going to make spaghetti," Steuer says, "but somehow it always came out brownies." In 1980, after graduating from Connecticut's Trinity College, she got a product-development job in New York but left after three years to write. A 90-page draft on entertaining at brunch was snapped up by Simon & Schuster, and Harper & Row bought Steuer's outline for a treatise on chocolate. Then a friend introduced her to Chocolatier publisher Michael Schneider.
Steuer, who is not married, insists she's a chocophile, a lover of chocolate, not an addict, which is a chocoholic. To illustrate the difference: She does not like chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce together. In Chocolatier, she strives for an editorial balance that includes a health update, travelogues and recipes for real food, such as prosciutto pizza and grilled salmon. "It's a fun magazine," Joan says, "but also a serious one. Our main goal is to educate the consumer."
The philosphy seems to be working. Since it premiered in February, the $3-an-issue magazine has attracted 126,750 subscribers—and Steuer says she receives 20 to 30 letters a day. "Chocolate products sales for this year are predicted at over $10 billion," she says. "I won't have any trouble filling 96 pages four times a year."
Still, her ideal dessert is elusive. Says Steuer: "It would have to be outrageously deep and dark, not too sweet, dense, rich, flavorful. If you know of one, call me at Chocolatier."
Just don't make it chocollect.