I wanted some of my clients to tell their own story about their Gembuild office. Ilze van der Merwe is a chef and a chocolatier and she spoke to journalist Carol Miers about her bespoke chocolate factory, which we built in September 2011.
Ilze makes her confectionery in two garden buildings, her macaroons now appear from an original hut and her natural chocolates are in a specifically designed factory.
“What Roy Thomas from Gembuild did for me is quite interesting, having a wooden house for the chocolate factory,” Ilze said.
“I Googled and I found the Gembuild website by chance. I could not have got a better person than Roy to do the job, I did not shop around as Roy was so knowledgeable about it.”
The factory was later built in four days in the back garden. The idea had come from a friend.
The “beauty of it” was that by keeping the height low, it bypassed the need for planning regulations. As it was a first for Ilze, they went through her requirements.
“Roy does rooms in different lengths and sizes and we discussed this and what kind of flooring I wanted, and having Roman blinds. We also chose a deep commercial sized basin which Roy got for me,” Ilze said
“I could have asked him for anything and he would have said, ‘That is fine, I can sort things for you’”.
“I originally started the little chocolate factory in one room in the back of the garden where I am now just doing macaroons and I am making my chocolates in the room that Roy built. This factory is from my own home, I live on the premises and at the moment it works.”
The stringent requirements for making a food product, as specialist as chocolate, call for a cool ambient temperature and proper housing for stainless steel units, tempering machines and a hot cupboard.
There are also wall racks for sprays and utensils, as well as space for a trolley and all the necessary props.
“I was quite worried about the whole thing about having a space between our neighbour and the unit, about it being made from wood and the low ceiling, because of the heat,” Ilze said.
“We deliberately did not want it to be too wide, as I did not want it to disturb the flow of the garden. Now two people can work in it comfortably.
“It has a separate boiler so it is not connected to the house. I think there is a little generator for the power and I got in an electrician to do that,” Ilse said.
Ilze’s factory gets used daily and everything is set out for her particular needs.
“The room is the right temperature, a cool place to work in. I switch the machinery on until all the chocolate has melted. I tidy up the room and prepare it for the day. I have a trolley in the corner and I put the trays there. We fixed rails on the walls where I hook on the utensils,” Ilze said.
“Then I start. It is messy a bit like working in a potter’s studio. It is really functional and it does what I wanted it to do.”
As well as this, Ilze enjoys what she does and knows her chocolates are a good product. With only an online outlet, selling chocolates without preservatives is a tough niche market to charm, but having a factory in the garden has helped Ilze to make this possible.
Related articles: Ilze’s chocolate: The New Factory