Culinary Corner: An interview with Chef Ilya Koltusky of Sweet Loralee Pastries

Each year, the Gingerbread Benefit gives area pastry chefs an opportunity to share their creative gingerbread masterpieces with our event attendees. It’s interesting to see the various shapes, sizes and forms the gingerbread houses take on–indicating the sheer genius and vision of their creators. Pastry Chef Ilya Koltusky of Sweet Loralee Pastries uses his Ukranian heritage as inspiration to create his gingerbread Byzantine church. I can’t wait to see what it looks like!

Chef Ilya Koltusky of Sweet Loralee Pastries

What or who inspired you to become a pastry chef? Who do you look up to in the field? I have wanted to be a pastry chef ever since 1968 when I walked into the Minnedosa Bakery in Minnedosa, Manitoba, Canada with my mother who took me there after a dental appointment for a raspberry filled donut. I also think Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Martha Stewart are some of America’s best bakers.

What will the inspiration for your gingerbread house be?  I want to do a Byzantine style church (my heritage is Ukrainian) and use the domed churches that I grew up with on the prairies as inspiration. I have a computer whiz making the templates (the son of my assistant). I love rolling out the gingerbread dough by hand.  I always look forward to making it as we only make it during the Holidays.  By the end of the Holiday season I don’t want to see it again for another year. I usually hot sugar the pieces together so the structure becomes sturdier.  You have to work quickly to do this.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with? One favorite ingredient would be meringue.

When do you feel most rewarded for your work? I feel most rewarded for my work when someone comes into my shop telling me that the cake they ordered for their recent birthday was the best they ever had.

The 9th annual Gingerbread Benefit is to be held on December 1, 2011 at the Umstead Hotel and Spa. Tickets for the event are available online at

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