A Tasty Ukrainian Connection
Four Things to Know About Irina's Gourmet Bakery
1. From Code to Croissants
Irina and her husband moved from Donetsk, Ukraine, to New York in 1992, and she worked as a computer programmer. Three years later, her husband got a job offer in Kansas City, and they moved. Irina had trouble finding computer work, and the local Russian-Jewish community helped her get a job at Ball’s Foods, which runs the Hen House stores. Although baking had just been her hobby before, she became a bakery manager and trained bakery workers.
2. An American Dream Story
In 2005, Irina decided to strike out on her own and opened a shop in Leawood (moving later to Overland Park). Almost immediately, she got an offer to be a computer programmer at Sprint, but by that time, she says, her heart was all in the kitchen. She taught herself everything she knows about baking by getting books from the library. She sees links between building a specialty cake and engineering. “You have to draw, bake, cut and cover it,” she says. When people ask her how she did it, she says, “When you guys have fun on the weekend, I work.”
3. Sampling the Specialties
In the morning, her Danish and apple tarts fly out the door, and by the afternoon, people are after specialty pastries like Ukrainian pirojkis filled with meat, cheese or fruit, which are “like a whole meal,” she says. Other customer favorites are the chocolate-almond mocha mousse and a chocolate thunder cheesecake. The ingredients of the cheesecake are a trade secret, but the taste is like creamy custard ice cream. To go with it, customers can get a cup of Irina’s own blend of coffee, made by local Action Coffee Service.
4. Special occasions
Perhaps the biggest part of her business is the specialty cakes, and examples adorn the walls and shelves of her shop. A model chocolate cake on a bookshelf showcases a high-heeled shoe made entirely from chocolate — her favorite medium. Photos display flowered wedding cakes and even one special cake shaped like a violin — right down to the strings. Her most essential ingredients, she says, are simply butter and sugar.
Irina’s Gourmet Bakery
119 W. 119th St.
Overland Park, Kan.