Max Brenner’s restaurants, which are spread through the United States, Israel, Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines, serve pieces of theater along with pieces of chocolate. They’re designed to convey a feeling, an atmosphere heavy with the myths that surround chocolate. “Look, Mom, Willy Wonka is alive!” reads a poster on the wall, and it feels true.
His playful dishes include chocolate syringes and chemical beakers of sauce. For Israeli-born Brenner, his restaurants’ whimsical ambiance is a way for him to connect his literary side (originally, he intended to be a novelist) to his livelihood. He’s also written a cookbook, called Chocolate: A Love Story. “Max” Brenner was actually born Oded Brenner; he and a business partner originally melded their names when they founded the first Max Brenner restaurant, and when they ended the partnership, he picked up Max as a nickname. We joined Brenner at his flagship location in New York, just off Union Square, for a chat.