Often a love of cooking doesn’t always evolve into a career as a chef. Perhaps it takes a friendly encouragement or experience in a restaurant to realize it can become a dream job. However, for Kateryna Gryshchenko it wasn’t until after her family moved to Canada that she decided to take her love for cooking to the next level. Now as a chef apprentice at Langdon Hall, Kat is excited to show the world what she can accomplish in the kitchen.
Kat grew up in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, with her parents and younger sister. She fondly remembers spending her summers in the country with her grandparents while her father taught her how to butcher chicken and fish. She loved to cook but she didn’t think she would pursue a career as a chef; however, she was intrigued by the hospitality industry.
“I started university in Ukraine and completed my first year in Hospitality Management,” explains Kat. “It was a six year program and I would have studied everything from owning my own business to becoming a chef.”
However, in 2013 Kat’s parents made the difficult decision to move their family to Canada. There was political unrest in Ukraine at the time and Kat’s parents wanted a better life for their daughters. One year after the family left their home country, the Russian military entered Ukraine and began what is often referred to as the Russo-Ukrainian War.
“It was very difficult to leave our family and friends,” recalls Kat. “When we arrived in Manitoba I wasn’t able to continue school right away as I had to improve my English, so I stayed home for the first two years taking care of my family.”
Kat spent these two years cooking for her family. She became immersed with French-classic cuisine and the challenge of conquering each new recipe. Motivated by the simple yet delicious ingredients, Kat has found a love for cooking with the basics.
“I don’t think I would have gone to culinary school if it wasn’t for these two years at home experimenting with recipes,” says Kat. “But after moving to Ontario in 2016 I applied to the Chef de Cuisine program at Liaison College of Culinary Art in Kitchener.”
Kat worked at a local restaurant while attending school but struggled to work alongside cooks who were just interested in a paycheque and not concerned with the quality of ingredients or complexity of the dish. She knew she needed to find a fine dining restaurant that shared her philosophy and passion for quality.
“Shortly after starting at Liaison, Langdon Hall was recruiting cooks and my teacher encouraged me to apply,” recalls Kat. “In November 2017 I was hired to join the kitchen brigade and I finally found a team who truly cared about the little details.”
Since being hired, Kat has advanced from the events team to breakfast cook and is now refining her skills as a dinner cook. She believes there is something new to learn in the kitchen every day and stays very focused on her work.
On top of working and completing her education, Kat also participated in the Skills Canada Competition in 2018 and 2019. “I was very honoured to win second place in the Ontario competition in 2018,” says Kat. “However, I knew I could do better so I went back in 2019 and won first place.”
Winning first place took Kat to the National Competition where she finished fourth in her trade – an incredible accomplishment for a young cook!
Kat has now graduated from her program and is looking forward to exploring the culinary world. “I would love to travel to Paris and study baking,” says Kat. “I am learning so much here at Langdon Hall and I’m truly grateful for this opportunity.”
She still misses some of her Ukrainian traditions – such as a properly made borscht – and isn’t quite used to all the Canadians quirks and “sorrys”. However, she is excited about the opportunities that await her as a young cook.
“I really want to show the world what I can do in the kitchen,” smiles Kat. “And maybe even one day open my own restaurant with all my favourite dishes.”