Staff Spotlight: Michelle the Baker
Sep. 28, 2019
What smells so good? If you’re in the main lodge, chances are that delicious aroma in the air is a fresh dessert created by our official Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge baker, Michelle Romanuk. It might be lava cake, chocolate butterscotch cheesecake, or a red velvet cupcake, but this much is for sure: you’re in for a treat.
Michelle, from the farming town of Starbuck, Manitoba, just completed her second year at Aikens and got rave reviews all summer long.
“We hear so many positive comments from our guests about Michelle’s baking,” said Julie. “They love all her baked goods, and so do our staff. People also appreciate the variety of items she makes, because it’s not just chocolate-based desserts, or only pies. There’s something that will satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.”
Just as many anglers got started in fishing as a kid thanks to a parent or grandparent, Michelle’s passion around baking similarly got started by a relative.
“My aunt got me into baking when I was a kid,” Michelle said. “She used to cook at a fishing lodge and when I with her as a kid she’d always be making things and I would watch and sometimes help. When she heard I got this job at Aikens she had me come stay at her house for a weekend ‘boot camp’ where she trained me.”
Michelle’s aunt and family remain her biggest fans, and closely follow her work at Aikens back home via the internet.
“Every time I bake something, I post it on Facebook and my family follows along,” said Michelle, who graduated from the University of Manitoba and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in education. Her goal is to teach and coach at the high school level. She also enjoys playing both hockey and ringette––so yes, you can see that at Aikens even our baker plays hockey! And, in fact, she is an excellent goaltender.
Michelle is also very courteous and polite, which came through in her interview during the application process.
“The interview was scheduled for 30 minutes, but I had a really good conversation with Julie and Pit and it lasted for over an hour,” said Michelle, whose camp nicknames are Shelly Boots and Mich. She was offered the job on the day she turned 21, and instantly said yes.
This past year, Michelle and Julie implemented a special innovation at Aikens: a bakery box in a display case with fresh treats wrapped up and ready for guests to grab on the go throughout the morning, day or evening.
“Julie got the box last year, and this year I’ve been dressing it up,” said Michelle, pointing to her hand-written note atop the display case declaring that ‘Calories don’t count at Aikens.’
“I put a new quote on it every couple days,” said Michelle, whose first job at the ripe old age of 13 was, fittingly, making pizzas at a butcher shop.
Layering a variety of frostings and toppings onto desserts such as cheesecake was a particular focus of Michelle’s this year, and a couple of her favorite recipes are her key lime pie and coconut pie.
She also enjoys creating desserts for the staff.
“Earlier this year Coco asked me for some puffs, and when I made them the guys were all happy,” Michelle said with a smile. “Whenever I make cookies the boys just demolish them. It surprises me every time.”
One thing she enjoys doing when she’s not working at Aikens is getting out onto the lake to enjoy a beautiful night on the water. Next year, she is hoping she might be joined by her brother, who is strongly considering applying for a labor job.
“I mentioned to Pit that my younger sister likes to bake, too, and Pit said, ‘Ah, we’ll make it a family thing.’”
The Aikens Experience is one Michelle strongly recommends not only to her siblings but to anyone who enjoys meeting new friends, being in nature, and earning good summertime wages.
“This is a great place to be for the summer,” said Michelle. “It’s the best job to have while you’re in university.”