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Home is where the heart and the sufganiyot are

The pandemic has been hard on people working in the culinary industry. Pastry chef Victoria Nam has turned to selling her creations from her own kitchen.

PORTLAND, Maine — "I've always been really into food since I was a kid I would eat everything and anything," pastry chef Victoria Nam said.

Nam's culinary career has taken her all over the world.  

"I was in Italy and France for 6 months," she said. "And then after that, I went to Japan."

Born in Russia and raised in Maryland, she's also worked across the country. Early on as a chef for the Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. and eventually a summer on Nantucket. She also spent years working at restaurants in San Francisco.

Feeling burnout, she took a break from the industry and worked other jobs like retail. For a complete change, she and her fiancé eventually moved across the country to Portland.

"We love Portland. We love Maine so much. I feel like I'm at home," she said.  

In March, she was in between jobs when the pandemic hit. And like so many Mainers, she's been looking for work since.

"I have recently as of a few weeks ago exhausted all my unemployment benefits," she said. "And I just can't find a job, I like, I've been applying dozens and dozens of places within a few months and just nobody gets back to you."

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So Nam turned to her passion: making pastries.

She started the application to get a home food license which she said means, "you can cook, bake, and sell products from your house."

She also turned to the Next Door app and Instagram to get the word out that she's taking orders.  

The reason was two-fold. She needed both money and a meaningful connection to others.

"For me baking, cooking is a really enjoyable process getting my hands dirty kind of thing," Nam said. "But, it's not worth it if you can't share it with anyone."

With comfort food, she's going out of her comfort zone.

"I started developing this recipe for a donut and it kind of coincided with Hanukkah."

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She is making her own version of Sufganiyot.

"It's like fried dough," she explained.

It's a pastry used to celebrate the holiday around the world, including in Israel. It's a process though. This one takes three days for the dough to do its thing.

"These are naturally leavened; I'm using sourdough. So when you're making something with sourdough it takes time to develop the structure and the flavor that you're looking for," she said.

A labor of love in a time we could all use a little more.

Nam is taking orders for her baked goods on Instagram. Visit her account here.