Celebrity baker gives Vernon cafe owner a sweet surprise

Marilyn Courtenay (left), owner of the Boarding House Cafe in Vernon, received a special visit from Natalia Shevchenko, winner of the Great Canadian Baking Show’s third season on Saturday, Aug. 15. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Using the awe-inspiring technical skills she displayed on the CBC Television series, Natalia Shevchenko baked and decorated a cake inspired by Marilyn Courtenay’s favourite board games. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

The owner of Vernon’s board game cafe received a double-sweet surprise when her daughter came to visit Saturday morning and brought with her the reigning winner of the Great Canadian Baking Show.

Marilyn Courtenay knew her daughter, Yin Ming Gillespie, had arranged some special plans for her visit from Edmonton, where she currently lives.

What she didn’t know was those plans included bringing along her friend Natalia Shevchenko to the Boarding House Cafe on 31st Avenue.

Shevchenko emerged last fall as the winner of the baking competition show’s third season, hosted by comedians Aurora Browne and Carolyn Taylor on CBC Television.

“I recognized Natalia right away,” Courtenay said with a laugh, adding she and her daughter had watched the entire third season together. “I saw what she can do, and look what she’s done for me.”

After arriving in Vernon on Wednesday, Aug. 11, Shevchenko flexed the dazzling skills she displayed on the CBC series by baking a chocolate cake with caramel flavours in the shape of Courtenay’s favourite board game, Carcassonne.

Using an edible printer, she added images of Courtenay’s other favourite games and topped the masterpiece off with a miniature version of the cafe – also edible.

“It was just amazing,” Courtenay said.

READ MORE: Owner of Vernon’s first board game café a lifelong gamer

READ MORE: Vernon business delivers cure for boredom in self-isolation

“I think she was shocked,” said Shevchenko, who also whipped up some Boarding House business card cookies to hand out to customers Aug. 15.

“I was baking all day Friday because I wanted to make (the cake) fresh and beautiful.”

Shevchenko specializes in exquisite Eastern European baking, having grown up in Ukraine before emigrating to Canada several years ago.

“In Ukraine, we don’t have places like this,” she said of Vernon’s first cafe dedicated to board game lovers. “It’s great because you can come with your family and everybody can find their own game and play with some coffee and sweets.”

Shevchenko said she’s been plenty busy with baking orders since competing on the TV series – many of which she shares on Instagram – but she was happy to help Gillespie put the icing on her homecoming.

“I like making people happy… For her, it was a very nice surprise, and she loved the cake!”

The Boarding House Cafe has grown its game collection to more than 350 games since opening in December 2019.

After switching to delivering food and games during a pandemic-related closure, it’s back to welcoming guests from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday, opening at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

For more on the Boarding House Cafe, go here.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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