Steamboat Springs Walking into The Homesteader overwhelms the senses with the heady aroma of spices and sugar, the air thick with the rich chocolate bouquet rising from the demonstration kitchen in the back of the store.
There, Daniela Kennedy, who owns the downtown kitchenware boutique with her husband, Steve, whips up batch after batch of homemade chocolate treats that eventually could entice the senses of Hollywood stars.
Since March, Daniela’s Artisan Chocolates, along with her specialty roasted nuts, have been featured in the snack spread in the green room of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
It was last winter that a "Tonight Show" staff member was visiting Steamboat Springs and sampled Daniela Kennedy’s signature roasted nuts and the homemade toffee and chocolates.
The Colorado bourbon-soaked pecans and smooth milk chocolate bark sprinkled with roasted almonds must have made an impression because the Kennedys received a call a short time later with an order for the show.
“It’s nice to know our product is making it out to California,” Steve Kennedy said. “It’s cool to think about who’s eating it, like Michelle Obama.”
Since the Steamboat-made treats have appeared in the green room, guests including Betty White, Steve Martin, the Kardashians, Newt Gingrich, Ryan Lochte, Ellen Degeneres and hundreds of other stars and personalities have streamed through the show’s L.A. studio.
And the snacks they indulge in between makeup and hair were made in downtown Steamboat. Daniela Kennedy roasts the nuts right in the front window of the store and tempers the chocolate in the small kitchen in the back.
The fortuitous connection has a positive impact as far as the Kennedys are concerned.
Steve Kennedy said the orders of hundreds of small packaged units each month have kept Daniela Kennedy busy in the kitchen every working day and have carried the store through slower seasons.
“It’s nice to have a client outside Steamboat. It’s consistent,” he said. “And it helps put the name out there.”
And not just Daniela Kennedy’s name but also that of Steamboat Springs, which is emblazoned with pride on her logo.
Daniela Kennedy was raised in Zurich, where she harbored a lifelong dream of becoming a chocolatier. She went to pastry school in her chocolate-obsessed home country, where she learned the scientific practice of pastry creation.
It’s no simple task at altitude, either, and small temperature and humidity changes can alter or halt the process. But she smiles at the challenge, and her creative passion has led to the family’s invite to Los Angeles to meet Jay Leno and go backstage at the show in late October.
Daniela said this newest endeavor — the brand of Daniela’s Artisan Chocolates — is a manifestation of her sugar-filled aspirations. To her new business, which was launched last winter, she’s brought traditional Swiss recipes in addition to evolving new combinations of delectable flavors.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to get back to this job I love,” she said. “It’s the creativity, and it’s chocolate. What else can I say?”
Steve and Daniela Kennedy said they try not to eat all of the creations, of course, but samples are a necessary part of the process. Their daughter, 10-year-old Samantha, also is top-notch quality control.
And the byproduct of Daniela Kennedy’s hard work — those delightful aromas — will not go unnoticed on the 800 block of Lincoln Avenue.
“It makes the store smell so nice,” Steve Kennedy said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com