Episode 19: Oded Brenner, chocolate mogul

The founder of the world famous Max Brenner chocolate shops was banished from his company. But, after a five-year exile, the chocolatier has returned and is making a comeback.

The guest: Oded Brenner is a modern-day Willy Wonka. In 1996, he launched a small chocolate shop called Max Brenner in Israel. That one location was such a success, he eventually expanded the concept to dozens of chocolate restaurants all across the globe – including in Israel, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Russia and in the United States. Max Brenner shops are inspired by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" – even down to the chocolate pipes circumnavigating their way through the restaurant. It takes a whimsical approach to food and everywhere you look is chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. There's even chocolate pizza. He sold a majority stake in his company to an Israeli confectionary company called the Strauss Group.

The gist: But then something happened that would change the course of the chocolate shop's history. Oded tried opening a new chain of coffee shops on the side, and the food and beverage giant sued him. Oded lost his job and the company he founded, and as part of the settlement he was banished from the chocolate business for five years. He spent those years in exile planning his comeback. And now, he's finally returned. He recently opened a new chocolate shop in New York City called Blue Stripes. Throughout the space – on the walls and on the gift boxes – are short pieces of text that Oded has written to his daughter, to share his entrepreneurial journey with her. To explain to her how he went from worldwide chocolate icon to being in exile. The new eatery offers a more refined menu, featuring variations on the cacao fruit, although you'll still find hints of the decadent. Their signature drink is known as The Cloud and is basically drinkable chocolate mousse served from a tap. In today's episode, we visit Oded's new restaurant to chat about Max Brenner, his years away from the chocolate business, and what he hopes to accomplish next.

Further reading:

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Podcast host Benyamin Cohen (left) and Oded Brenner (right) inside the new Blue Stripes eatery. Podcast host Benyamin Cohen (left) and Oded Brenner (right) inside the new Blue Stripes eatery. (Photo: From The Grapevine)

The chocolate syringe at Max Brenner The chocolate-filled syringes at Max Brenner (Photo: PommeGranny/Flickr)

The new Blue Stripes cafe in New York City. The new Blue Stripes cafe in New York City. (Photo: From The Grapevine)

Blue Stripes signature drink is known as "The Cloud" and is basically drinkable chocolate mousse served from a tap. Blue Stripes signature drink is known as "The Cloud" and is basically drinkable chocolate mousse served from a tap. (Photo: From The Grapevine)

Transcript

Benyamin: On this episode of Our Friend From Israel.

Speaker 2: Well, he's the modern day Willy Wonka. Max Brenner, creator of Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, is making millions by selling an age old delicacy: chocolate. But not just chocolate. Chocolate pizza, chocolate soup, bagels, pastries. His stores are just a chocolate lover's fantasy and he's already a worldwide phenomenon.

Benyamin: If you've never walked into a Max Brenner shop, you're in for a surprise.

Speaker 3: Chocolate in the ceiling. There's chocolate in the walls. There's chocolate everywhere. It's paradise.

Speaker 4: I just breathed in and I was completely overwhelmed.

Benyamin: Mmmm.

Speaker 5: It's pretty awesome.

Speaker 6: There's no other restaurant like this in the world.

Benyamin: A Max Brenner shop is like a modern day Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, even down to the chocolate pipes circumnavigating their way through the restaurant. It takes a whimsical approach to food and everywhere you look is chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. There's a chocolate fondue tower, chocolate martinis, chocolate beer, fudge-filled egg rolls. Even the onion rings are dipped in a dark chocolate dressing. Can't wait for a dish? No worries, there's even chocolate ganache syringes to give you a quick fix. And then, of course, there's the chocolate pizza.

Speaker 7: It was like no pizza I've ever had before. You got the crispy, thick crust and then the ooey, gooey melted white milk chocolate, creamy toasted marshmallows and then probably the best part is that hazelnut crunch.

Benyamin: The co-founder and creative genius behind these dishes is Oded Brenner. He founded the company back in 1996 and it eventually grew to dozens of restaurants around the world, including in Israel, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Russia and in the United States.

Speaker 8: You know, it's interesting. And this was a man who is Israeli born and he was running a single retail chocolate store in Israel when he thought to himself this is not the whole experience that people want when they're eating chocolate. Chocolate's a very emotional, romantic thing. And he thought let's take this one step further. And he wanted to create a restaurant that would be the Willy Wonka for grown ups. Very sophisticated.

Speaker 9: He's going global and how has he managed to get the capitol to do that?

Speaker 8: Great question. What he did very early on was he sold a majority stake in his company to an Israeli confectionary dairy company called Strauss Elite.

Benyamin: But then something happened that would change the course of the chocolate shop's history. Oded tried opening a new chain of coffee shops on the side and the food and beverage giant sued him. Oded lost his job and the company he founded and as part of the settlement, he was banished from the chocolate business for five years.

Benyamin: He spent those years in exile planning his comeback and now he's finally returned. He just opened a new chocolate shop in New York City called Blue Stripes. Throughout the space, on the walls and on gift boxes are short pieces of text that Oded has written to his daughter to share with her his entrepreneurial journey; to explain to her how he went from worldwide chocolate icon to being in exile. The new eatery offers a more refined menu, featuring various on the cacao fruit, although you'll find hints of the decadent. Their signature drink is known as the cloud and is basically drinkable chocolate mousse served from a tap.

Benyamin: In today's episode, we visit Oded's new restaurant to talk about Max Brenner, his years away from the chocolate business and what he hopes to accomplish next. Stay tuned.

Benyamin: Welcome to Our Friend from Israel, a podcast brought to you by Fromthegrapevine.com. I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and each week we'll have a conversation with an intriguing Israeli. They'll come from all walks of life. Actors, artists, athletes, academics, archeologists, and other news makers.

Benyamin: On today's show, we chat with chocolatier, Oded Brenner.

Benyamin: Okay. I'm just walking in right now into the new Blue Stripes restaurant in New York City. It's very crowded. Actually, it's late morning now and it's really crowded. And I'm supposed to be meeting with Oded. It's kind of noisy, as you can hear, so I'm going to be meeting with Oded in the back room of the restaurant. So, I'm going to walk back there now.

Benyamin: Okay. Okay. Test, test, test, test, test.

Oded: All right. Yes.

Benyamin: Welcome to the show today. Today we are joined by Oded Brenner. Welcome to the show.

Oded: Thank you. Welcome.

Benyamin: Thank you so much for having us. We are in your new shop, Blue Stripes, which is in Greenwich Village near lower Manhattan, right?

Oded: Yes. Actually, the Union Square area.

Benyamin: Uh huh.

Oded: The back of Union Square.

Benyamin: You can tell I'm not from New York so I don't know.

Oded: I know.

Benyamin: I don't know all the neighborhoods.

Oded: I'll forgive you.

Benyamin: I was close. I appreciate that. You have a extraordinary career. We want to get to all the things that you've done, including the new shop. But before we get into all of that, I really want to know more about you and your upbringing. Where did you grow up?

Oded: Grew up in Israel. In Rechovot. Rechovot is 20 minutes south to Tel Aviv. Small city. But then like most of Israeli young people, moved to Tel Aviv. And then I was inspired by this amazing city and also learned pastry and then was in Europe for almost six years learning all kinds of pastries but mostly chocolate in Paris. And then eventually opened my first business in Ra'anana.

Benyamin: Were you always interested in chocolate? As a kid, did you enjoy eating chocolate?

Oded: I came from a Yekke family, which-

Benyamin: What does that mean?

Oded: Meaning immigrant that came from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia. They love to eat their chocolate in moderation but always. Almost every day after lunch or dinner they treat themselves with chocolate, so this was my grandpa and grandma. I always had this warm corner in my heart for chocolate, but anyone has it.

Benyamin: Right.

Oded: I'm not special in that.

Benyamin: You like dark chocolate or milk chocolate. What are you ...

Oded: I have to admit that I was always a milk chocolate lover.

Benyamin: What is that in Hebrew? Chalav.

Oded: Chalav. Chalav. Milchig. But now when I grow up ... There is some dark chocolate that I really like.

Benyamin: Growing up, what did you think you wanted to be?

Oded: I never had anything to do with cooking or culinary. I was mostly a ... Basically, I wanted to be a writer. This was my thing. There are courses in Israel that you can go and get some social security money and I chose pastry just because I could do this and then go home and write. But, you know there is this famous saying of John Lennon life happens to you while you're busy planning other things. I wanted to be a writer and eventually I turned into a chocolate mogul.

Benyamin: A chocolate mogul. What kind of things were you interested in writing? Fiction? Non-fiction?

Oded: Yeah, fiction.

Benyamin: Fiction.

Oded: Totally fiction.

Benyamin: A lot of good Israeli writers out there.

Oded: There are. Yeah.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: I think there are a lot of good Israelis in a lot of things.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: Really. Technology and food. I think what Israeli's doing now in food.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: Can see New York. Amazing stuff.

Benyamin: Yeah. I recently interviewed. You know Ron Ben-Israel?

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: The baker.

Oded: Of course.

Benyamin: I interviewed him last month.

Oded: A lot happening in New York City now around Israeli food. And I think the interest is growing and growing in this type of cuisine.

Benyamin: And why do you think that is?

Oded: Very healthy in its core. It's healthy and I think those flavors that are much more interesting kind of a fusion cuisine. But in Israel it happened very naturally because we are all Olim Chadashim, immigrants to Israel that came from all over the world and each one brought his own cuisine. I think now, four or five generations after, there is such an interesting blend of cuisine and this is why America is so interesting because also 150, 200 years ago when people came here from all over the world and created this salad.

Benyamin: Yeah. Israeli-

Oded: Turned into a delicious salad.

Benyamin: Tabouli.

Oded: Exactly.

Benyamin: We're seeing a renaissance. I don't know if you follow the James Beard Awards. Recently Michael Solomonov has won best chef and then there's a guy in New Orleans, Shia, whose new restaurant ... All these Israeli chefs are out there.

Oded: What Israeli chefs from ... Michael Solomonov from here but also coming from Israel to here, which was rare until now. And then you see people like Eyal Shani, the very celebrated chef in Israel who opened in Chelsea market.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: This pita kind of concept. And May Hodon. He's another chef who did here like a higher end cuisine. They're all getting a lot of attention, press and people love it. It's very successful.

Benyamin: Yeah. Tell us how you got involved and how Max Brenner came about.

Oded: When I finished my culinary journeys in Europe and learned more and more about pastries, still dreaming about writing, I came back to Israel still wanting to write. And then I said I'm going to start a chocolate place. This is what I was doing in Paris for the last few years at that time. I met a new immigrant from Denmark who was my agent at time 26, who wanted to start a business in Israel. We met. Both of us brought a little bit of money and I was the chocolate guy and we started a chocolate business. It started as a little chocolate store, which grew-

Benyamin: In Tel Aviv it started?

Oded: In started in Ra'anana, north to Tel Aviv. Then Tel Aviv. Then around Israel. Then we change it into this concept, which we call the Chocolate Bar or the Chocolate Café restaurant, which we had in Israel, then in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Russia, over almost 100 restaurants around the world. That's how Max Brenner was ...

Benyamin: And he was Max and you're Brenner.

Oded: Yep. But he left after I think two years into the business. And then I continued. I was the creative ... I was the founder and the owner, but I was the creative director and pushing all the very unique ideas of Max Brenner and the design and this concept which evolved very nice.

Benyamin: For someone whose never walked into a Max Brenner store, I was watching a video on YouTube of the Las Vegas location.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: And it's eye-opening. Chocolate pizza, chocolate beer.

Oded: Yeah. Well, I think chocolate different than many other food ingredients. I don't know. Tomato. It has a lot of imagination, sensuality. It involves a lot of things. It's not just a functional connection. It's not just like-

Benyamin: Right. It's not a piece of bread.

Oded: Exactly. It's not like I'm hungry, I want to eat it. It's something that has a lot of stories behind it. It's childhood memories. It's romantic. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There's a lot in it. And what I did in Max Brenner and now doing in Blue Stripes is telling a story that is much more profound than just the crave for sweet. And then therefore, when you are going to a Max Brenner it was kind of a curation or a collection of all those different emotions and angles that we are connected with chocolate. Like Charlie and the Chocolate. So we had chocolate pipes going all around the restaurant. Chocolate pizza was this kind of very sensual way of eating chocolate. A dough with warm, melted chocolate on it. And all these things going around.

Benyamin: I saw a syringe with chocolate I think I saw.

Oded: Syringe. Again, that's also the ... The concepts come from these associations that are going with chocolate. All know we say I need a chocolate fix. So, chocolate fix. Chocolate fix. Okay, let's put chocolate in syringe and you can get your chocolate fix. This is all.

Benyamin: What is it about chocolate? I mean, as you said, it's a part of ... Primal is not the world, but there's this natural-

Oded: Kind of. Yeah.

Benyamin: It is primal, you say? It's natural. Every kid and every adult. That's something.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: They want that taste.

Oded: Don't know. There is a magic in it and magic is hard to explain. But seriously, even if you go back. Back to the roots of chocolate to the time of the Mayans and the Incas, already there it was considered as food of the gods. It was considered as something that is aphrodisiac. All kind of things like this were related to chocolate. This is hard to explain why we're so addicted to coffee. Why there is probably ... I'm sure there's some chemistry explanation-

Benyamin: Chemicals. Yeah.

Oded: -Why we're so ... But I think in chocolate it's much more than this. It's the texture of ... It's the way that it melts. Cocoa butter melts at body temperature. All this together, I think, connects us to chocolate in a very powerful way.

Benyamin: Did you have a particular item on the menu at Max Brenner that you were really proud of?

Oded: It's a very holistic creation.

Benyamin: It's like a parent can't pick their favorite child.

Oded: Exactly. But it's not ... I mean I cannot ... Really, there it's hard to say because it's one thing connected to the other. To me, it's Max Brenner is a product as a whole. It's this whole experience of the design. The entire design, then the dishes, the flavors, the smell, the music, the colors. All this together turns it into what it is.

Benyamin: It's an experience.

Oded: Yes.

Benyamin: It's like walking into ... More than an M&M Store. I mean, it's walking into a-

Oded: I agree.

Benyamin: It's a whole-

Oded: I agree. I agree.

Benyamin: It is walking into a Wonka Factory.

Oded: Yes. And it involves all your senses.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: That's the idea there. And that's why it's not one thing.

Benyamin: Gotcha.

Benyamin: When we return, Oded tells us about the lawsuit that pushed him out of Max Brenner and into a five-year ban from the chocolate business.

Oded: Personally, it helped me to look at my life, look at what I want to achieve, look why all these things happen. If it's really me or not me. I think mostly it's kind of a lesson to the worst enemy of each person, which is the ego.

Benyamin: All that and much more after the break.

Benyamin: You may remember a recent episode we had with From the Grapevine's resident chef, Sarah Berkowitz.

Sarah Berkowitz: No, I had an interest in psychology since I was very little. You know, I loved the idea of nurturing people and helping them fix their problems and I've really discovered that food has a way of doing that. The act of eating and cooking for someone is very intimate and I find that it creates a strong bond. It's the kind of gift ... When you give someone homemade food or when you cook a meal for someone, it really strengthens your bond. It's more than just food.

Benyamin: She's made more than 400 recipes for our site and now we're offering something special. Sarah will send one lucky listener her famous cranberry pistachio biscotti and chocolate truffle biscotti. If you want that scrumptious deliciousness sent to your mailbox, here's all you need to do.

Benyamin: As you've heard me say on the show before, the more reviews a podcast has on the iTunes store, the easier it is for new listeners to discover the show. We're asking you, our loyal listeners, to help us out. Head on over to the iTunes store, search for the Our Friend from Israel Podcast, and write us a review. We'll be looking at those reviews over the next few weeks and for the person who writes us the best review, Sarah will mail a dozen biscotti for you to enjoy.

Benyamin: So, pull up the iTunes store on your phone or on your computer and show your creativity, help out the show and a box of biscotti could be on it's way to your door. We'll name the winner on an upcoming episode of the podcast. Thanks for your help.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's interview with chocolate mogul, Oded Brenner.

Benyamin: Tell us what happened with Max Brenner. If you could take us through. You're not there anymore. And so, tell us what happened.

Oded: Yeah. Six years ago, I started a new concept. I was still part of Max Brenner. This concept was ... I didn't try to hide it or anything. It was known to everyone in Max Brenner. I had partners in Max Brenner, which is the largest food corporation in Israel.

Benyamin: Right. Strauss.

Oded: Strauss.

Benyamin: They bought ... They acquired-

Oded: They acquired the majority. I was tiny shareholder.

Benyamin: Gotcha.

Oded: And when I-

Benyamin: And at that point ... Sorry. It got to the point it was like 60 stores all around the world.

Oded: Something like this. And then I opened Little Brown, which was a chocolate café on the go concept.

Benyamin: In New York City.

Oded: In New York City in the Upper East Side. Then I open another one in Chelsea. Then another one in Flat Iron. I franchised it to Dubai and to Russia. All this happened in one year. And then Strauss didn't like it.

Benyamin: Right. So, here you are. The Max Brenner. The face of Max Brenner, so to speak, and you're in New York opening Little Brown franchises in New York.

Oded: I did. But it was nothing a surprise. It was all on the table, clear.

Benyamin: It wasn't behind their backs.

Oded: Totally not. It was transparent. But, you know, business is business and especially when you are a four billion or three billion conglomerate you set up the rules.

Benyamin: Right.

Oded: And when they decided that they don't think it's right anymore, they sued me.

Benyamin: Oh, wow.

Oded: And in litigation, especially in New York-

Benyamin: It's expensive.

Oded: It's not about who is right, it's about who has more money.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: And if they have more money, they eventually win. Win big time.

Benyamin: It happens in most law cases.

Oded: It's happened in most law cases, but especially in New York where it's so expensive. You have no chance against anyone that has the resources.

Benyamin: They sued you and if I read correctly that they said you can't ... The outcome was you agreed not to be in the chocolate business for a period of time.

Oded: You know, when you're fighting that type of fight, at one point you're so exhausted that you are willing to sign anything they give you. I signed on everything. Yeah. And it was very harsh. I was not allowed to do anything in chocolate. I was not allowed to use my name. Not allowed to use my face. I was not allowed to talk about chocolate.

Benyamin: Right. Cuz you were, really, you were the public face. Even at one point ... I think I ... It's called The Bald Man, they refer to Max Brenner.

Oded: Not at one point. The name of the company is Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man.

Benyamin: And you're the bald man.

Oded: And the silhouette and the logo is my face.

Benyamin: Wow.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: They were taking away your identity, so to speak.

Oded: Yeah. To them it was ... And I'm not arguing about it now or this, but to them it was they bought it so yes, they had the rights to it and everything. No, they took it very far.

Benyamin: They said-

Oded: It's over.

Benyamin: Right.

Oded: So it doesn't matter.

Benyamin: They said you can't use the word chocolate, you can't use your image and you have to stay away for five years, is that right?

Oded: Yes. Yes.

Benyamin: What did you do during that time?

Oded: Mostly, two things. One, surviving, which is all kinds of consulting and bringing some income home. And then in parallel I started to think what will happen five years after when I'll be free from all those-

Benyamin: Restrictions.

Oded: Restrictions.

Benyamin: And the exile is over.

Oded: Yeah. And then I was starting to create Blue Stripes, which is composed from few different things. One of them is stories that I was writing to my daughter, Tito. Or her real name is Nelly. Tito is her nickname. And I was writing her about my entrepreneurship journey as a 25 years old guy that comes with a lot of passion into the world of business building something nice and significant then the thing that he built is taken from him and then the comeback.

Benyamin: The comeback.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: You're the comeback kid. How did that experience ... We'll get to Blue Stripes in a moment, but how did that whole experience of being away for five years, how did it change you emotionally as a father, as a person?

Oded: To me, person ... If you look at it from outside, financially, it was a disaster. But I think there is more to life than just the financial success, which I'm still working on. But personally, it helped me to step aside for a sec and look at my life, look at what I want to achieve, look why all these things happen, if it's really me or not me. I think mostly it's kind of a lesson to the worst enemy of each person, which is the ego. Some of us are really ... It's a huge enemy for them. And at the same time, by the way, it is the best energy and power to do things. But if you don't control it ... It's become like a wild animal.

Oded: To me, it was a good lesson to control it, to contain it in some way, to be a little bit more humble about success and understand that yes, success is beautiful. It's important. It's a drive, but it shouldn't completely turn you upside down.

Benyamin: Right. Right. It's a humbling experience.

Oded: Absolutely.

Benyamin: If you're enjoying this episode, you might also want to check out our interview with Gil Hovav, known worldwide as Israel's first foodie.

Gil Hovav: Now, Israeli cuisine is having a moment or even an hour or maybe a year. And it's big all over the world and actually, the food revolution in Israel started around the 80s and now we're on top of things. Israeli cuisine is being admired all over the world and rightly so. It's really cool. It's really nice. It's really creative and colorful. It's the right cuisine for the moment because it's colors fit Instagram.

Benyamin: Check out that interview and our entire archive of episodes at OurfriendfromIsrael.com.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's show with chocolatier Oded Brenner.

Benyamin: Tell us about Blue Stripes. How did that come about and what does the name mean?

Oded: Like I said, during those five years I was doing a few things. First, I thought what will be the concept. But part of it ... I'm a storyteller when I build a concept and it started from telling Tito, which is the nickname of my daughter, Nelly, my entrepreneurship journey, like I said before. And this was kind of the inspiration for all this creation or the emotional side of Blue Stripes.

Oded: One of the stories that I'm telling her is that when I was in Paris I really loved Jean Paul Gaultier, the designer. One time I saw a model that he designed her suit, which was with blue stripes and a brown shawl. And when I came back to Israel and started Max Brenner, I didn't understand anything about design and so I told my designers at the time that I want all ... If Gaultier is doing a suit with blue stripes, I will want all my blue boxes to be with blue stripes and a brown ribbon.

Benyamin: Right.

Oded: And these were the first boxes of Max Brenner. To me, it's like a gate. When you go into the concept of Blue Stripes, this is the beginning of the stories. And that's the part of it. This is one angle of Blue Stripes. The other was the culinary angle, which was to create a place that is much more approachable, casual, not a restaurant like Max Brenner but something more on the go that you can come in, sit. It was to create a place that is more casual, on the go, that you can come in. It's not a waiter service. This is one aspect. But the other was also to make it more up to date and to me, more up to date was bringing unknown elements of the cacao, cocoa that people are not familiar with. A little bit familiar now knowing that cocoa is very healthy. People know today that cocoa beans are very healthy. But they don't know much, much, much more about cocoa.

Oded: For example, the flesh or the pulp that is inside the fruit. That is an amazing super food. Amazing tropical fruit. Nothing to do with chocolate in the flavor. It's a tropical, little bit kind of a passion fruit mixed with a guava. Very delicious. We are the first one in the world doing with it energy shake, juices, bowls similar to acai bowls but based on the cacao with granola and fruits. Those are extremely unique.

Oded: And then other aspects like taking the cacao beads, grinding them on the spot to pure chocolate and then cooking with it the purest hot chocolate you can think of. This was part of it. And then, obviously, not to forget the indulgence part. But in a much lighter way, less formal, less kind of Willy Wonka crazy experience but more ... I think the way we expect today from food. That will be less drama, more quality.

Benyamin: What would fall into that category?

Oded: We do ... Also in this, we are very, very innovative. One of our iconic drinks today, we call it the cloud. It's a chocolate mousse on tap. Drinkable chocolate mousse.

Benyamin: Wow.

Oded: That we do in different flavors from milk chocolate to Nutella to white chocolate strawberries. Just kind of aerated chocolate beverage. Really light and delicious. Something between a chocolate frap to a mousse. We do things that we call cake and shake, which is a cake on top of a shake. Individual small cake where you eat the cake and then you drink the matching shake. Something we call cone pizza, which is a brioche cone dough, sugar crystallized around it. We fill it with melted chocolate, salted caramel ice cream and a marshmallow torch on top.

Benyamin: Wow.

Oded: All these things together are innovative parts of the indulgence section in Blue Stripes.

Benyamin: I was reading, there's something called pankwiches?

Oded: Pankwich? Yeah. It's another kind of cool things, which is a pancake sandwich. Two pancakes warm inside a chocolate patty, dark or white. A hole in the middle, which we fill either with caramelized bananas or with crème fresh strawberries. And then we pack it almost like a sandwich with a little saucier on the side.

Benyamin: Gee wiz. I'm getting hungry just ... I'm going to have to eat something after this interview.

Oded: Sure.

Benyamin: Two questions. Where do you hope Blue Stripes will be in five or ten years? And where do you hope you will be in five or ten years?

Oded: You know, I learned in this entrepreneurship journey that it's okay to look far, but it's much nicer and much more efficient to look at the ... It's like climbing a mountain. You can look far, but it's easier and much more effective if you look at the next step. To me, first I want to make this store amazing. I really want people to love it, to enjoy this experience, to hear the feedback. Yes. I hope that it will eventually be all over the world because I think it's a very positive concept. I think it's doing something really beautiful, happy. I think it's bringing a lot of good not only as the one part that yes, chocolate makes people happy, but also the healthy part of it, which people are not familiar with.

Oded: And I hope that I will be still a very creative person either in Blue Stripes or somewhere else, but the most important things for me, which I think brings meaning to life, meaning to us as human beings, is to learn and then using this learning to create and to make it beautiful and bigger and more interesting and explore. I think that's the meaning of life. I'm not looking to ... The one thing I'm not looking for is to retire and sit on the beach and not work.

Benyamin: Is that the message you want to convey to your daughter? That-

Oded: Absolutely.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Oded: I think there is rules. There is some kind of a rhythm to this world. And this is the rhythm of this world is we need to work and rest, but in this type of balance. Six days of work, one day of rest. And it's all about work and creating. This is our role in this, I don't know, earth as human beings.

Benyamin: Right.

Oded: Is to create and make this world much more beautiful, interesting.

Benyamin: Last question. I ask this to all the people I interview before I end the interview.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: Is there any question I did not ask you that I should have asked you? You can think about that for a second.

Oded: No. I think you ... No, because you were talking about Max Brenner. You were talking about Blue Stripes. You were talking about my life and you asked me what's my message, so that's my message. It's a good interview. Thank you.

Benyamin: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. If people want to find out more, where could they find out more information?

Oded: BlueStripes.com.

Benyamin: That's pretty good. BlueStripes.com. We are in the back room of the shop right now. Not in Greenwich Village. Near Union Square.

Oded: Yep. The back of Union Square.

Benyamin: Near the lower side of Midtown. Right?

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: Lower Manhattan.

Oded: Yeah.

Benyamin: If you're in the neighborhood you should stop by and have some chocolate mousse on tap or whatever else wets your appetite. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Oded: Thank you.

Benyamin: All right. Take care.

Benyamin: Our Friend From Israel is a production of Fromthegrapevine.com. Extra notes and a transcript of today's episode can be found at OurFriendfromIsrael.com.

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Benyamin: Our show is produced by Paul Casco. Editorial help from Jamie Bender. Our head engineer is Everett Adams. Our theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel.

Benyamin: You can visit our website at OurFriendFromIsrael.com to find more episodes of the show. And if you have an idea for a future guest that we should interview, send me an email at bcohen@fromthegrapevine.com.

Benyamin: I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and until next time we hope you have a great week.

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