Max Brenner is an Israeli chocolate retail store chain that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Strauss Group, Israel’s second-largest food and beverage company. Max Brenner chocolates are marketed as "Chocolate by the Bald Man" and the company operates Chocolate Bars in Israel, Australia, Philippines, Singapore, and the United States (U.S.). In 2010, a new Max Brenner restaurant and chocolate store opened in the U.S. at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, followed by another store opening in Boston during the next year. In June 2013, a Max Brenner chocolate bar opened in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
In the early 1990s, Israeli-born Oded Brenner worked in pastry shops apprenticing to the legendary likes of George Maushagen in Germany and at Fauchon in Paris. It was at that time that he said he "fell in love with the happiness chocolate brought people". Working as an apprentice in Paris in 1994, Brenner met well-known chocolatier Michel Chaudun and convinced the maestro to take him on. Oded Brenner spent six years learning the art of chocolate-making in Paris.
Upon his return to Israel in 1996, Brenner opened a small retail chocolate shop with a workshop in the back. Brenner said he came to see chocolate as “an emotional product that should be experienced through all senses.”  The result was the opening of "Handmade Chocolate by Max Brenner" derived from Oded’s last name and co-founder Max Fichtman’s first name—in Ra’anana, just outside Tel Aviv.
By 1999, Fichtman and Brenner had opened ten chocolate shops. Later, Brenner bought out his partner and embraced the Chocolate by the Bald Man concept, adopting the nickname Max. Aspiring to take chocolate to a new level, Brenner sought to create a "chocolate culture” that would acquaint people with the story of chocolate, reveal ancient secrets, and revitalize traditions lost over the years.
“I think most people think of chocolate like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as fun and happiness, childhood memories and romance. They can only experience all this in their dreams. Then I knew what I wanted to create: a 3D chocolate experience, to tell the chocolate story in a very broad way; a way that hadn’t ever been done before. I wanted to create a chocolate culture.”
A chance meeting with an Israeli entrepreneur in 1999 sparked the idea of expanding his business, and the first of the Max Brenner-branded cafes opened in Australia, in Sydney's hip Paddington, in 2000. This newly opened “Max Brenner Chocolate Bar” was to be the centre of Max’s new chocolate culture, combining a bar and a shop. This allowed people to enjoy a “holistic” chocolate adventure, experiencing their shopping in the bar section and shopping their experience in the shop section.
According to the founders of Max Brenner, "chocolate is not just about taste. It’s a symbol of different aspects in our lives - of romance, of sensuality, of decadence. These aspects actually create the new chocolate culture of Max Brenner." In 2009, Oded Brenner explained the philosophy behind his chocolate enterprise: "Chocolate to me is European so the restaurant is part Parisian cafe. Then I added some Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I added spices from all over the world that we use to create our chocolates. And then part of it is like a lab - like a drugstore."
Max Brenner restaurants offer a large selection of chocolate-based dishes, including chocolate waffles and crepes, fondues, ice creams, hot chocolate drinks, smoothies and chocolate martinis. Max Brenner's chocolate pizza was featured in a February 2011 segment of Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate/Pizza. The restaurant takes a "whimsical" approach to food, with menus divided into sections such as “For Dipping,” “For Your Hands,” and “With Knife and Fork.”
Boycotts in Australia
Magistrate Simon Garnett subsequently ruled against the prosecution and dismissed the substantive charges against the group of protesters who became referred to as the "Max Brenner 19". The magistrate ruled: “In my opinion, the owners of QV and therefore QV management, by virtue of the Square and lane ways being subject to the S173 Planning and Environment Act agreement and therefore a ‘public place’… did not have the legal authority to apply conditions on members of the public who wished to enter QV square.” Defense lawyer for the "Max Brenner 19" Rob Starry commented on the outcome: “This case is really a landmark case in the annuls of the criminal justice system because what it represents is people have a right to express themselves politically".
The protests have drawn condemnation from Australian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who remarked “I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business.” In September 2011, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that "the protesters had not broken federal competition law because the protests did not cause substantial loss or damage to the Max Brenner chocolate stores." Some pro-Palestinian organizations including Australians for Palestine have distanced themselves from the protests but have publicly defended the choice of Max Brenner as a boycott target. In October 2011, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said that he is against the "full-scale" BDS campaign, and in particular expressed his anger over the occasionally violent protests at the Max Brenner stores, saying, "BDS is a non-violent process and I don't think it's the right of anybody to use BDS as a violent action or to prevent people from buying from any place."
Protest organizers consistently denied that the protests were violent, and instead accused the police of acting with brutality.
Julia Gillard denounced the planned protest against the Max Brenner shop on the Kensington campus of University of New South Wales, accusing the organizers of engaging in an ugly attempt to spread anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial. In a survey conducted by the university to ascertain which new stores students and faculty wanted on campus, a Max Brenner chocolate shop was the second most popular choice.
Max Brenner Australia spokespersons stated that the sole shareholders of the franchise operation in Australia are a young Australian couple who have no direct connection to the Strauss Group. The franchise employs over 1,100 Australian residents across 4 states.
In May 2013, the Australian national newspaper reported on a YouTube video segment that featured an interview with Australian BDS supporter Patrick Harrison, who is also a spokesperson for the Palestine Action Group. Harrison stated in the interview: ".. financially speaking there isn't really any connection between this Max Brenner store in particular and Israel," referring to the BDS movement's protests against the Max Brenner store in the Sydney, Australia suburb of Paramatta, but further explained that the retail outlet has become a "cultural ambassador for Israel". Harrison then clarified that the "cultural ambassador" notion was based upon the manner in which Zionist supporters had maintained a presence at the chocolate stores to show their firm opposition to the movement that Harrison is a member of.
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- Milking It
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