Uzhgorod is the confectionery capital of Ukraine!
"I did not think that I would become a pastry cook. Perhaps, because I had not enough sweets as a child, when I was three years old, I promised myself that I would do anything in life just to have a plenty of them around me. Then, when I was a little older, I understood that in order to have enough of that, you must actually work with that", - the most famous Ukrainian confectioner Valentin Shtefanyo says.
Thanks to this man, our city is constantly enriched with interesting curiosities. Thus, a few years ago, Uzhgorod received a sweet face - a brand cake with its name. This year, the branded confectionary shop appeared in the city center, where you can taste exclusive sweets from our chocolatier - you will not find them anywhere else!
- This year you have realized one of your dreams - opened a pastry shop in the city center. How long did you work on it?
- I worked on it for a very long time. You can make a lot, but must also know how to present it. The easiest way to do it is in my own shop, because in others, it is not going to be presented as I would like it to be. For several years I would walk around the neighborhood looking for premises. I like the historic neighborhood very much - there is an aura of real Uzhgorod there. Of course, if they make the streets pedestrian only, invite artists, blacksmiths, the place could be one of the most interesting in Ukraine. The premises of the store were rented out for four years, and last year I bought it and began re-arranging.
- The name of the shop contains the name of your sister Valentina. Do you collaborate with her?
- Of course. She is like a myth for people - everyone knows Valentin, and no one knows Valentina. You can say, that we started doing professional pastry business seriously together. Since 2004, we started to collaborate very closely, to participate in various competitions, to grow and introduce something new to Uzhgorod. She does sort of a secondary, but strategic work, she sets the direction to move in, decides which product range should be made.
- Your sister lives in France... Have you ever considered moving there?
- I believe that it is not the places that grace the men, but men the places. In France I would not be of much use, I could hardly bring something new there. There are chances that I will be of more use here.I think that the meaning of life is to create beauty and comfort around, to change things for the better.
I once said that Uzhgorod was the pastry capital of Ukraine. Once we calculated that every city resident accounts for 84 kopiykas of our products. It is much more than even in Kyiv.
- In the brand shops, in addition to sweets, you can buy your trademark bread with bran...
- Baking bread is my old dream. I always loved to bake bread. It's nice to eat tasty bread to the last crumb. My sister and I specifically went to one of the best mills in France to see the whole process, how grain is made into flour, and to understand why bread in France is better than ours. For three days, we participated in the workshop, tried various recipes. Unfortunately, we can not achieve such great quality of bread as there. Because of the price for buyers, we have to make a compromise, mixing French flour with ours - otherwise bread will be too expensive.
- On this year's Day of the City you presented the biggest cake ever in Uzhgorod. Tell us how you worked on this project.
- I wanted to make a holiday for people and to focus on patriotism so that Uzhgorod would stand out of the situation in the country. To make them see that we also care and want Ukraine to be united.
- Recently you conducted a workshop for schoolchildren on making of croissants and bread. Do you like to pass your knowledge to others?
- Well, you can't really share knowledge with children, because a child will not perceive all that information that you want to give them. It was no more than an introduction to the profession. In fact, we are investing in the future, as these children will grow up tomorrow, and we want them to become worthy of the city where they live, their parents and motherland. I think people need to show children things that worth living, learning for, so that they make beauty around them. I will be very happy if I could have sown a grain at least in one child. Perhaps some of them will become bakers, confectioners or cooks. It is better to show children how to make bread than how to shoot machine guns.
- What is your everyday life like? Tell us about your daily routine...
- Nowadays, I am as if re-living school years (smiles - Ed.). My daughter goes to school at half past eight, and I get up with her, walk her to school and then walk to work. First I always go to my shop to see the products, and then - to the bakery. There, I usually work on new recipes.
- Which of your confectionery is the most memorable?
- Each product is special in its own way, but I can say about the one that opened a particular stage in my life. For the wedding I made a dress of buns for my fiancee. This work was accompanied by a feeling of the beginning of something new. I was fully aware that I was to start a whole new life, everything would be different. But it turned out that, in general, nothing changed. We just have stamps in our passports. Later, the child was born and further sealed our family.
- Does you wife welcome your bakery business?
- She has a positive attitude. And she takes care of our brand design, because she has the talent of an artist. Previously, I had to invent some things for the holidays myself, and now Victoria advises me on the scenery or boxes needed for a particular type of product.
- Does you daughter like goodies from daddy?
- She does. What is most interesting is that when I bring home something sweet from work, usually no one rushes to eat it, eventually the leftovers are thrown out - and then the daughter begins to complain that there is nothing at home! I would bring something again - and it stays untouched again (smiles - Ed.). When she comes to my work, then she eats everything in sight.
- And do you yourself enjoy your sweets?
- It is difficult to say what from our range I like the most. Each time, I like the freshest things. Tastes are constantly changing: today I want one thing, and tomorrow - another. Perhaps, this is why you should always vary the range in order not to lose clients. Old things quickly become boring.
- Do you cook at home?
- I love to cook. I do not want to participate in some culinary competitions, but I can cook something for myself. Usually, my wife cooks at home, but on holidays I always try to make something new and interesting.
- What do you cherish most in life?
- Values are constantly changing. Currently, I cherish peace the most. I do not remember ever gathering with friends and raising a glass for peace. And now, it is the first toast in any company - for peace. Peace is the most important thing. It is the most relevant thing now. If there is peace, then everything will be fine in the family and at work. And, of course, I cherish my family.
- Do you have a saying or a motto that you follow in life?
- There is such a saying: "A dessert must be tasty and beautiful." If we analyse it, "tasty" always comes first. If your product is beautiful, but not tasty, no client will ever come to you again. That is, content is always important - it matters not what a person is like on the outside, but what he or she is like inside. This applies to anything really - the content is what is important. When we go to heaven, the Lord will not ask us about the crosses that have put - gold, silver or any other, but He will ask about our deeds that we have done.
- You mentioned God... Do you believe in Him?
- Well... I'm afraid to say that I believe in God (laughs - Ed.). Perhaps it would be more untrue than true. "Every time I come to church, it's Easter" - it is about me. It does not matter whether you go to church or not. I think the point is that He is inside of you, and you live by conventional canons. I do not care about religions or denominations. There are 10 specific rules to live by. A normal person will know that you can not steal, murder, cheat, and so on. I believe that there is the Higher Mind, Higher Forces above us, that keep the balance of good and evil on the planet. No matter how these forces are called: Allah, God, whatever you like. I have not seen Him, but there must be Something above the people.
- What do you value most in people?
- Most of all, honesty. I will connect with anyone if they tell the truth. And then come all other qualities: kindness, compassion, and love.
- What are your future plans?
- Now, we are working on the product range of the store. Then we want to create a franchise network of our branded stores throughout Ukraine. We already have applications from Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv, Mykolaiv. Mostly, I am now working on that. In general, I would like our confections to be recognized by taste only, without labels.
Source - newspaper "Uzhgorod"
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