Hello, and welcome everyone! My name is Inna, and I’m the host of Innichka Chef.
I have loved to cook as long I can remember, and I got my first recipe book when I was 12 years old. It wasn’t popular to be a cook at that time, so I never spoke up about it. I never dreamed I could do something that I really love, but now I want to share my passion with you.
I was born and raised in Ukraine, but at that time it was part of the Soviet Union.
How do you like my “friend” in the background?
Also, note my lack of smile in typical Soviet fashion.
When I was a child, we got food in ways that may be difficult for you to imagine today because a lot of things were in short supply, including basic ingredients like bread and milk. We had to learn survival skills from a young age, such as how to grow vegetables in the garden. We didn’t have supermarkets at that time, so in order to get all the ingredients we needed for dinner we had to go to multiple stores and stand in line for a couple hours with no guarantee we would get anything when our turn arrived. The last loaf of bread may have been gone before you handed your money to the cashier! Fun times, huh?
After my mom picked me up from kindergarten, we would go to one store, my father would go to another, and my sister would go to yet another. So, we would all bring something for supper.
My mom never liked to cook, especially healthy food, and she didn’t put a lot of careful planning into meals. She made what she could make with the ingredients she had on hand, whether it be pancakes for dinner or fried fish for breakfast. But the food was always fresh and in season, and the quality of ingredients was unbelievable. For example, if my mom sliced a cucumber in the kitchen, I could smell it in the living room. There was no need to add much dressing or anything. It was yummy just the way it was.
I was from a small town, and I had two options when I finished school. One was to be a teacher (which I didn’t want to do) and complete my education in my own hometown. The other was to study engineering, but my grades had to be high enough for the government to pay for me to move and go to university in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. My parents weren’t thrilled with that idea, but I was excited for the chance to leave my hometown. So, as you can guess, I did it my way (I always like to do things my way).
After completing university in Kyiv, I went to work for a construction company. While there, I met a man named David, who later became my husband. When David and I were dating in Kyiv, we went to a lot of restaurants. His favorite thing to eat was a caesar salad, and he would order one every time we went out. I thought it was a little odd, but when we arrived in the US, I realized why he ordered so many caesar salads. He didn’t trust new dishes, and he loved American food. It reminded him of home. Even though the salad wasn’t exactly the same, it was as American as he could get.
After living in Kyiv, with all of its restaurants, I thought I knew what American cuisine was. But I quickly learned I was wrong. I tried cooking American food when I moved here, but I didn’t know how to make it. David didn’t like it, and I was frustrated. David would try cooking sometimes, but I didn’t like his cooking either. He only knew how to cook frozen food or food from a can. It got to the point where we would eat out at least three times a week just so we didn’t starve.
Eventually I started making American dishes from scratch. This had some interesting results. I didn’t grow up with American food, so I didn’t know what it should taste like. I only knew what it should look like. I also had no idea what food went with what. Finally, my husband chose a few things he enjoyed from my cooking and said, “Do the same thing every week.” I couldn’t. That’s too boring, and I was already in love with cooking. So I kept practicing, and soon after, we moved to a big house with a big kitchen, and my love of cooking continued to grow.
The school where I was studying English as a Second Language (ESL) hosted a yearly fundraiser so they could continue to offer the program to immigrants like myself. It was a huge deal, and I was excited to go. About 500 people attended the fundraiser, and it was held in a beautiful hotel. Part of the ceremony featured some of the donors giving speeches. I tried to listen closely, but it was hard to follow with my broken English.
I understood one man talking about his restaurant business and how he supports the ESL program because his grandfather was an immigrant who had opened the first fish market in Boston. He said, “I am proud to say we are opening our 100th location of Legal Sea Foods this year.”
I thought to myself, “Wow! He’s a big fish!” As soon as he finished his speech, I rushed to meet him and started to talk about how I wanted to work for him in broken English. He looked at me, smiled, then called someone over and said, “Help her.” That was it. After submitting my resume and completing an interview a few weeks later, I got the job!
And let me tell you, it was difficult. I had no real experience, and this was the largest restaurant I’d ever seen. Between working late shifts and not being American or Hispanic, it was like boot camp. But, from shucking oysters to making all kinds of salads, desserts, and appetizers, I learned a lot. This was a start.
My philosophy about food is that food should always be delicious and nutritious. You should cook with love and always choose the best ingredients you can find. I truly believe meal preparation can be fun and should be a life skill for every human. I tend not to take shortcuts in my cooking, and I make almost everything from scratch. The phrase “everything in moderation” (including fast food, processed food, boxed mixes, etc.) doesn’t apply to me.
My goal for this blog is for people around the world to really discover and fall in love with healthy cooking and kid-friendly recipes, especially Ukrainian or Eastern European food. If I can save even one person from getting sick from processed food, I would be thrilled.
I believe God made everything perfect. I believe in eating real, whole food as the first source to get all necessary nutrients. All my recipes are made with love, passed my family’s taste test, and meet a variety of dietary needs for those folks who are on some kind of diet. So whatever dietary principles you follow, you will find something for yourself in my blog. Feel free to request any recipe you wish and I’ll do my best to fulfill your request/grant your wish.