From Ukraine to Corner Brook, with sweets: Baker brings Ukrainian desserts to Newfoundland cuisine

Olena Horobets decorates a freshly baked cake with nuts at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Olena Horobets only knew one thing about Newfoundland and Labrador before she left her home in Ukraine.

“The ocean is there,” she said.

Horobets said she didn’t know much about the rest of Canada.

“Maple syrup and Nickleback. And I knew everyone is polite here, so it’s true,” she said.

Trained as a cook and baker, Horobets has worked in gastronomy for 12 years. Much of that time was spent in his hometown of Dnipro, a city near the Russian frontline in Ukraine.

Today, Horobets brings his talent – and his Ukrainian desserts and confections – to the kitchen of the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

She said she considered moving to Canada, but said she had little choice when the war in Ukraine began.

“I love this place…I love the sky here because it’s so wide, so bright and so beautiful…Maybe because of the lack of light pollution. And regular pollution,” a- she declared.

“People are very, very open and supportive.”

A cake is decorated with icing.
Horobets worked as a cook and baker in Ukraine and Poland before bringing her skills to Newfoundland and Labrador. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Horobets fled Ukraine for Poland, where she was able to apply for the position at the Glynmill Inn. But as the war drags on, she can’t help but think of her family and friends in Dnipro.

“It’s difficult because every day is something. Every day we hear devastating news about what happened,” she said.

“In my hometown…I worry about everyone I know. Constantly.”

Dnipro was first attacked with missile strikes in March, shortly after the invasion began on February 24. These strikes continued, as recently as last month.

Horobets said she tried to encourage her family to come with her, but stayed. She doesn’t know if or when she will ever return home.

“Yesterday I learned that my friend was killed defending Ukraine. I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

“I think to pay tribute to all Ukrainian defenders, we have to try to move forward. To survive in the first place, and try to enjoy the life they defend.”

A woman decorates a cake in a large kitchen.
“I love this place,” Hotobets says, “I love the sky here because it’s so wide and so bright and so beautiful.” (Troy Turner/CBC)

In her pastry shop at the Glynmill Inn, Horobets starts with classic recipes learned over years of study and adds her own flair to the things she bakes.

“[I] I like having this base, and then I [add] a bit of myself,” she said. “You have to feel it.

“My favorite dessert is honey cake. I made it [for the] first time for my birthday, this huge cake. I brought it here and everyone loved it and we decided to keep it on the menu.”

But as a baker and artisan, Horobets also uses her skills to learn more about her new home and also master new recipes.

“I like to keep doing local stuff because people know about it,” she said.

“Recently, we made this Chocolate Screech Cake. It’s definitely a local dessert, and yes, it’s awesome.”

A woman standing in a kitchen with shelves of fresh bread, presenting a newly decorated cake.
Olena Horobets now bakes Ukrainian classics and Newfoundland treats. (Troy Turner/CBC)

In Corner Brook, the Glynmill Inn welcomed Horobets in a social media post, saying they were happy she arrived safe and looked forward to her being cooked.

The hotel assisted with travel and helped set up accommodation for Horobets.

“We want her to stay. She’s phenomenal and she does a great job for us,” said Connie Rose, General Manager of the Glynmill Inn.

Rose said Horobets has already shown their talent for presentation and attention to detail, and can do more than just desserts.

“She’s interested, she has the desire and motivation to try, not just baking, she’s also done cooking in Poland, and she’s very meticulous in her presentation.”

Horobets hopes that one day his mother and father will have the opportunity to visit his new home in Corner Brook.

“He is [a] very long, long journey,” she said. “It took me five days to get here.

“Maybe one day…I’ll feel comfortable enough to invite them over. I’d like them to see this place.”

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