Not your traditional baker, Alina who is the owner and baker at Sweet Kitchen & Bar in Worcester, Massachusetts, studied Film & Television, had a ten year fitness career and competed in Miss Fitness USA among others, and competed on TV shows such as Food Networks Sweet Genius (won), Chopped and Cupcake Wars.
Curious Consumer & Sweet 16
Alina’s first memories of eating were born out of curiosity. Her mother recalls Alina’s need to touch and taste anything she walked past – flowers, plants, food, you name it. Putting her interest to task, Alina started cooking breakfast in her neighbor’s restaurant at age 13. Not long after, New York’s SoHo restaurant Whole Wheat & Wild Berries opened a location in the Berkshires. After learning there was no dessert menu, 16 year-old Alina pluckily approached the owner with an offer to make desserts – sweetening the deal with a tray of no-bake cheesecake and chocolate cake. Impressed with her courage and talent, the owner gave her the job. Alina worked in the kitchen throughout high school, creating a dessert menu that included vegan and macrobiotic desserts in addition to the no-bake cheesecake and chocolate cake.
A Competitive Streak
Not thinking culinary school was in her future, she went on to study Film & Television; however, baking was always in her heart. When Alina would return home from school, the first thing she would do was turn on the oven. In order to keep her weight in check, Alina discovered the world of competitive fitness. This new found passion led her to a ten-year fitness career, and in 1996, she competed in Miss Fitness America Pageant, Miss Fitness USA Pageant and the Miss Galaxy Pageant, and placed in the finals in all three.
Being the Bread Maker
Alina found the competitive aspect appealing, but there was something missing. Not fulfilling – or filling – enough, Alina returned to the world of baking in 2003, while pregnant with her son, after her husband couldn’t find a decent loaf of bread. Six months after giving birth, Alina opened The Sturbridge Baking Company and over the next five years, the menu extended well past bread and cookies to tarts, pies, scones and cakes as well as breakfast and lunch earning a "Best Bread" award courtesy of Worcester magazine.
Finding her Calling
In 2008, she sold the bakery, and moved onto her next venture, Sweet Kitchen & Bar. Serving cakes and cupcakes during the day, and cocktails and desserts, in addition to savory bites, in the evening earned Alina many accolades including a Worcester’s Most Creative Chef award by Pulse magazine in 2009, Worcester Magazine’s Best Dessert award 2009, 2010 and 2011, Worcester Living’s Best Dessert award 2009, 2010, 2011 and City Living’s Best Dessert award in 2008, 2009 and 2011. In addition to being a familiar face on the food show circuit, Alina’s custom cakes have earned her a celebrity following and has made cakes for the top 13 American Idols, comedian Jeff Dunham, Kid Cudi, and The Cake Boss himself, Buddy Valastro. In 2010, Alina had the chance to host a sold-out dinner at the James Beard House, one of her greatest career achievements.