The Bagel Queen with Big Bagel Dreams: Talking Russian Food and Future Plans with Rebecca Volynsky

May 15, 2016

There's something cooking on the East Side, and it's not in one of the restaurants. From a third floor apartment, just off Hope Street, wafts the tantalising aroma of fresh, sesame topped bagels baking in the home of Rebecca Volynsky.

Having followed her bagel baking progress via facebook, word of mouth, and most recently from the ever stylish instagram feed of The Dean Hotel, I knew I had to find out more about the Volynsky Bagels.

Photo by Jen Brister of

Clutching two cups of hot Seven Stars coffee on a rainy Sunday morning, I made my way to Rebecca's cute little 
East Side apartment. The first thing you notice about Rebecca are her eyes, bright and friendly, her wide genuine smile isn't far behind as she welcomes me into her home. 

It's clear from the moment I step over the threshold that Rebecca is an artist, a tumble of giant paper flowers strung with tinkle lights are hung in the corner of her kitchen, next to a gallery wall of eclectic pieces including her own mixed media work. 

A tray of proved bagel dough is laid out on the kitchen table, giving me a immature preview of the fresh baked breakfast I'm about to experience.

Having moved back from Boston in the summer of 2014, the East Side is the adopted ancestral home of the Volynsky clan. Her parent's emigrated from Belarus in 1989, just before Rebecca's birth, arriving in on the East Side of Providence and residing here still. 

Talking about the journey her parents made to the States, when they were not much older than herself, the pride and appreciation of the opportunities they have given her by coming to America are not lost on Rebecca.

Whilst Providence is home, Boston and its art scene called to her, having studied visual arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston University and Lesley University. Whilst her innate artistic talent and style, which surround us in her bijou home, are obvious, Rebecca tells me that although she will always be an artist at heart she feels like there is another life puzzle piece out there she hasn't found yet. 

Combining her love of the arts and incredible passion, that's abundantly apparent whenever she talks of a task or intention she has, Rebecca is currently working with City Arts . An organisation providing free, professional art-based education and training to young people in Providence, it marries her creativity and proactivity beautifully.

Her current mission is the Cirque du ¡CityArts! fundraising event that's fast approaching. There's no question of meeting their fundraising goal, as far as Rebecca is concerned- with a track record of exceeding fundraising targets to back her up, I don't doubt her stalwart confidence either!

A self taught home cook, this culinary venture is, right now, a passion project. Though the research into the legalities and certifications needed to grow this ideas into reality is well underway, right now the extent of Volynsky bagel production is on her four burner stove top, using a eclectic collection of makeshift and last minute Stock supplied tools and utensils. 

Moving around the kitchen with the ease only a home cook in their personal environment can, Rebecca starts to boil the bagels as she tells me how the cultural importance of her Russian Jewish heritage is fueling her culinary journey.

What started out as a hobby, developed into a honed curiosity, and has blossomed into a full blown passion for carbs, Rebecca's bagel making is more than just about filling the breakfast table. 

Though she knows the broad story of how her parents left their homeland and the ensuing journey to America, the details are now being filled in over home cooked Russian fare. Connecting through the medium of food, whether it's spending time learning recipes or sharing traditional dishes together, the topic of conversation is deepening her understanding of the details of her parents' US odyssey.

Scooping the boiled bagels from their malted bath, Rebecca deftly paints them with egg white and tops with sesame seeds, before popping in the oven and joining me at the kitchen table that's crammed with gypsophila and pale blue stock filled vases.

There's an emotional glistening to her big eyes as she talks of the day her mother took away from work (a job she's had since arriving in the US and has worked hard at, so much so she is now the assistant manager of the establishment) to spend cooking stuffed cabbage and piroji for Rebecca and her friends. The day away from work being a real luxury, it's clear that whilst delicious food is clearly important to this family, it's also a metaphor for familial bonds, the passing of generational wisdom, and for love.

It's not just family relationships that are being nurtured by food either. At her most recent dinner party an impressive twenty two people (twenty three if I count Mishka, Rebecca's beautiful blue eyed Siamese cat... and I do) squeezed into the third floor, one bed apartment to feast on hearty, authentic eats cooked by Rebecca and her mum. This mother daughter collaboration is something Rebecca is really hoping can be a part of her, and her mum's, future careers.

Having kept half an eye on the bagels browning in the oven, Rebecca deems it bagel time as she pulls out the tray. Casting a critical eye over the golden, glistening, baked beauties, she approves them for immediate consumption. Served up simply with cream cheese on the now 'The Dean' famous background of her matte black kitchen table, the only pause we make before chowing down is for the ubiquitous flatlay instagram shot... we're only human.

Though her love of bagels stems from her love of traditional Jewish food, the journey to perfect the art of bagel making that began as a personal quest, has quickly blossomed into something more. 

Rebecca dreams of her bagel journey evolving to a point where she could create a business that includes her mother (and her mother's exceptional Russian cooking skills!) not just to bring good food to the people of Providence, but to give back to her parents the opportunities that they gave to her by coming to America.

So what is starting out as bagels boiling in a pan that's not quite big enough, catching the eye of notable foodies across the state (*cough* *cough* David Dadekian), and harbored in dreams of a future family business, might just be that final puzzle piece for Rebecca Volynsky.

To be kept up to date on bagel R&D and future bagel events and happenings (eek!) be sure to sign up to Rebecca's mailing list. 

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