Return to Newsroom

Newcomer employees spread culture through baking

Newcomer employees at Grand Lake Timber in Chipman, NB are sharing their culture with their new community through baking.

Olha Andriianova and Oksana Melnik, both from Ukraine, moved to Canada to work at the Chipman sawmill. For the past six months, they’ve been setting aside time in their busy schedules to run an international bakery on the side.

Each Friday, they and three other women from the community – Kateryna Didyk from Ukraine, Caroline Romanhuk from Brazil and lifelong Canadian Nadia White – arrive bright and early at the Chipman Community Heritage Centre in the heart of the village to begin preparing the baked goods for their once-a-week pop-up shop.

All week in the lead up, the women are hard at work in their spare time finalizing the menu and buying ingredients. They make about four dishes apiece. 

Each week is a different selection of baked goods, from breads to pies, cakes and other desserts. They also make items like cabbage rolls, dumplings, shepherds pie and salads.

But they all have one thing in common:

“Most of our dishes are national Ukrainian or Brazilian dishes,” said Andriianova, a lumber grader at the mill. 

Andriianova came with her family to Chipman two years ago. About six months ago, Leah Stevenson, settlement coordinator with the Rural Settlement Network – Grand Lake Region, approached Andriianova and Melnik about starting up a bakery.

“Leah was sure that people in Chipman needed something like that – different types of food and sweets,” Andriianova said. “And to show people Ukrainian dishes they’ve never seen or tried.”

Stevenson said she felt the growing newcomer population in the village might be looking for food options besides the typical Canadian fare.

“They needed some of their home and culture, and to share it with community members,” Stevenson said. “That was the goal.”

Stevenson added that she’s noticed a lot of long-time community members are starting to look forward to the bakery each week. In fact, many are becoming repeat customers, with the cabbage rolls and perogies being particular favourites.

Half a year in, the bakery is growing in popularity as word-of-mouth spreads, to the point where they are selling out by the end of the day.

“It’s integrated the community,” Stevenson said.

J.D. Irving, Limited’s Woodlands and Sawmills divisions supported 167 newcomers last year as they settled in their new communities and joined the company’s operations. The company works alongside settlement agencies, and invests in language training, education and transportation for newcomers. In Chipman, the company partners with the Chipman Housing Authority to build mini homes and town homes that provide housing for newcomers.