“Some very unsavory people threatened me into opening this chocolate shop,” says Sebastien Brecht.
Brecht is the owner of Obsessive Chocolate Disorder (OCD), an artisanal chocolaterie opening this week on East 4th Street in the East Village. And the unsavory people he refers to, in his characteristic deadpan humor, are his wife and two kids.
Walk into OCD and the warm fragrance of cacao will embrace you, along with a distinctly familial feel. Friends and family have been helping Brecht get the shop ready for opening day. That’s when Brecht’s daughter will owe her 13-year old brother $500 for betting that their father would never, ever open a chocolate shop.
As you may have guessed from the name, Brecht is grandson to one of the most prominent theater figures of the 20th century– the Bertolt Brecht. And his wife is the daughter of Peter Schumann, founder of Bread & Puppet Theater. The younger Brecht, who has been making chocolates for 12 years now, says that the treats will be the star of the show here (as it is, let’s be honest, in most of our lives). But in a tip of the hat to that undeniable heritage, Brecht’s chocolate shop will also function as an experimental art gallery.
Fittingly, the first artworks in the store are portraits of Sebastien’s family and closest friends, painted by his sister. A new artist’s work will be displayed every two months. And the glass window behind the counter transforms into a screen where he plans to project video art. Brecht also writes funny comics for kids and gets artists to illustrate them. Endearingly, he will be self-publishing these books to sell in the store, along with chocolates for children that come molded into shapes of various characters from the books.
To start off with, OCD will stock nine enrobed chocolates, six or seven molded chocolates, three caramels and three types of bars. Reshaping chocolate and putting in passion fruit, vanilla or alcohol is “quite complicated,” Brecht told me. “Apart from the subjectives like personal taste, texture, sweetness, size, balance and strength of the infusion, there’s also the science of making fillings.”
Understanding the physics of the process includes deciding which machines to use and how. In the video above, Brecht and his assistant Annie demonstrate the accelerated making of a simple bar of chocolate and how that can go wrong if the mixed chocolate (in a process called tempering) is off even by a few degrees. Part of the reason chocolates can be so expensive (about $2.50 per piece) is because just the machinery, which is absolutely essential to the process, costs $26,000. Sebastien has one such machine and will be getting another shortly.
Brecht’s chocolates, unlike most I’ve seen, have the names of fillings imprinted on the outside. When asked why, Brecht says, “It’s like when you kiss a girl for the first time.” The implication: You never know what’s going to happen when you bite into a filled chocolate, so having its name on top reduces the anxiety of the first bite. “I can’t control love but I can control chocolate… So that’s my stupid theory,” chuckles Brecht.
64 E. 4th St., nr. Bowery, East Village.