At age 12, Igor Van Gerwen was working in a patissiere on weekends in his native Belgium where he spent the next six years at a college learning patisserie, ice creams, sugar work and chocolate work.
“In Belgium it’s pretty hard: you’re up against fourth and fifth-generation chocolatiers. So I was working as a pastry chef mainly for the next few years, then ended up in Tasmania.”
In the Apple Isle, Van Gerwen began making traditional the Belgian truffles with chocolate that he was used to from his homeland.
“I started supplying one shop, then two shops, and it just grew. I ended up supplying David Jones in Melbourne, and then started to become a bit more serious and full-time, and I just grew the business from there. It’s all organic growth; it was just for a market with product that people loved.”
However there was an issue. “The more I was selling, the more loss I was making, so I got a mentor in to teach me about the business side of things. He was with the business for several years and set me on the right path, including looking at areas of training,” he says.
Training is still a big part of the business at House of Anvers. “We do training in every area of the business. We have 52 staff, which is 28 full-time equivalents, and we train all our staff to a minimum of Cert III,” Van Gerwen says.
In 2002, Van Gerwen bought a property between Devonport and Latrobe on the busy Bass Highway and opened up to tourism.
In addition to chocolate on the menu, there is a tasting centre and a chocolate museum. “We call it a total chocolate experience and it’s been hugely successful.”
House of Anvers supplies into both retail and wholesale.