Life's the sweetest Bohemein rhapsody
If you believe that life really is like a box of chocolates, then award-winning Bohemein chocolate maker George Havlik will rock your world.
Bohemein has grown from one poky manufacturing shop in Hataitai, established in 2005, to a new shop in Hataitai, another in Featherston St, a website, and a factory in Miramar with 190 square metres of floor space.
Havlik has picked up two Cuisine magazine Artisan Awards, for his Sea Salt Caramels in 2012, and this year for Black Devils chewy caramel chocolates with roasted cocoa nib.
Black Devils were runners up to the overall winner in a competition that pits all manner of foodstuffs against one another. The name created controversy.
"Some people were upset, saying they would never come back to our shop. I felt like saying to them what word are you upset about? Black or devils?
"It is called black because it's got a lot of dark chocolate in it ... and it is devilishly good."
Havlik is keen to capitalise on the award with a first appearance at next month's Food Show in Wellington. "We are making 35,000 chocolates for the show."
And just around the corner is Easter, traditionally one of the busiest times for chocolatiers. Bohemein is preparing all sorts of Easter treats, including 1000 eggs for a single corporate customer.
Over the past decade, Bohemein's annual turnover has grown to about $750,000. About five months ago Havlik opened his Miramar factory on a 10-year lease, after he and his landlord split the $230,000 fitout.
The premises include a cooking room where ganache fillings and marshmallow are created.
A chocolate setting room, with the temperature set at around 15 degrees Celsius, and an 18C storage room are also integral parts of the factory.
Bohemein uses 100 per cent cocoa mass Belgium chocolate.
Havlik pushes freshness as his main selling point. He said old chocolates can degrade through crystallisation of the filling, oxidisation of the chocolate, and the absorption of unwanted flavours from nearby sources.
The shells for Bohemein chocolates are made by passing a mould through a curtain of chocolate which provides a consistent result. However, they are filled and decorated by hand.
Havlik, a trained pasty chef, arrived in New Zealand in 1999 from the Czech Republic.
He worked in Hawke's Bay for seven months before relocating to Wellington where he had a five-year stint at what is now called the Amora hotel. But he always wanted to make chocolates.
"The good thing about here [New Zealand] is you wait your turn and give it a go and you get a chance. Back home it's all about who you know and how much money you can bribe them with."
The next stage is the possibility of a cafe at Bohemein's Hataitai shop which would cost around $210,000 to fit out.
"We are looking to team up with somebody who used to be in Hataitai 40 years ago, and we are looking right now at whether we can afford it."