The story of ‘My Baba’s Kitchen’ in Barrie, Ont.

A traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal (Sviata vecheria) from My Baba's Kitchen

Alexandra Holyk for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The pandemic imposed many challenges on small businesses over the past few months. However, it also allowed one Ukrainian catering company in the northern Greater Toronto Area to flourish.

My Baba’s Kitchen in Barrie, Ont. is based on traditional Ukrainian recipes passed on through generations. Though only several months old, it has served as a go-to company for comfort meals in the Ukrainian cottage country — Cawaja Beach and Hawkestone – Oro Medonte.

The company was started last Easter after Erika Malynowskyj-Foxton — its chef and owner — shared photos online of the varenyky (perogies) she was making with her daughter. After seeing people’s comments requesting that she start taking orders, Malynowskyj-Foxton decided to take a chance and launch the business.

“We started getting more requests and so I thought, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot,’” she said. At the time, My Baba’s Kitchen was offering free delivery in town as well as to individuals outside Barrie’s borders who didn’t travel because of the pandemic. “Sure enough…word-of-mouth just kept organically growing the business.”

“In these dark times, there was a little bit of light and something good came out of it for us,” she added.

Malynowskyj-Foxton said the food she makes is inspired by memories in her grandmother’s kitchen throughout her childhood.

“My Baba was my inspiration,” Malynowskyj-Foxton said. “I have some wonderful memories as a child sitting at my Baba’s table in her kitchen…and watching her roll out the dough and making varenyky,” she added.

“It’s easy to be inspired by that and I’m grateful now that I can share that with my customers.”

Baba Olga

According to Malynowskyj-Foxton, Baba Olga was of Czech and Ukrainian descent. Living amidst the war in Europe, she moved to Germany and England before moving to Canada and settling in Toronto with her husband, Jaroslaw Malynowskyj.

“No matter where Baba was or how dire the circumstances she would cook up something delectable using whatever was available locally or from her garden to lift the spirits of her family, friends, and loved ones,” the company’s website reads.

Malynowskyj-Foxton was born in Toronto but moved to the Barrie, Ont. community at a very young age. She comes from a culinary background, with more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She’s been a caterer for more than 18 years.

Based on her childhood memories with her grandmother, Malynowskyj-Foxton said she strives to transcend her experience into her cooking.

“My Baba was really passionate about food and cooking and especially for cooking for other people,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing the same [as] she was doing and passing on to the next generation and sharing that traditional comfort food with people who love Ukrainian food.”

A traditional Ukrainian borscht

My Baba’s Kitchen’s menu includes several traditional Ukrainian dishes, such as borscht (beet soup), varenyky (perogies), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), patychky (meat on a stick) and kutia (wheat berry-poppyseed mix).

However, Malynowskyj-Foxton says the most popular dish is the varenyky, since there is a variety of flavours available to order.

“[An order of varenyky] is the number one, but everyone always adds to their order,” she said. “You’re getting the holubtsi and the patychky to go along with it. It makes it a complete meal.”

Aside from traditional flavours such as potato and cheese and sauerkraut, My Baba’s Kitchen offers Buffalo chicken, Jerk chicken and Southwest chicken and bacon perogies. Other favourites include pizza, Reuben sandwich and a twist on the classic holubtsi — with the cabbage roll filling in the varenyk, served with sour cream and marinara sauce.

Holubtsi

“Being creative can sometimes be a little bit challenging,” Malynowskyj- Foxton said about adding non-traditional foods to her menu.

Though she also makes cherry-filled varenyky, she introduced a new dessert flavour.

“For an alternative for dessert varenyky, I’ve made strawberry cheesecake; which definitely is not traditional but has taken off and has become a real hit.”

Malynowskyj-Foxton said her favourite menu item and comfort food is the borscht.

“It reminds me so much of my Baba and brings back so many memories,” she said.

The company’s website also includes multiple positive reviews from customers who share similar nostalgic experiences.

“I just wanted to thank you again. It was amazing! The whole family loved it,” Michelle Crane stated. “Best Ukrainian food I’ve found since my own Baba passed away. Thanks so much.”

Tamara Gould, another customer, wrote: “Being Polish & Ukrainian, I truly value home-cooked quality pierogies, kapusta & borscht. Your food is a 10 plus, and the fact you deliver for free is awesome! You have knocked the Reuben right out of the park! As you know, your borscht is a weekly staple in my fridge.”

My Baba’s Kitchen offers free delivery in the Barrie, Ont. area with a minimum order of $20. Since the food is prepared fresh daily, Malynowskyj-Foxton requires a 24-hour minimum notice for orders, which can be done online here.