Janessa Elanik’s passion for baking began in high school. Now, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) has recognized her talent, and entrepreneurship, with a leadership award.
Elanik discovered baking at Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin High School. For the past six years, she has been at school pursuing her baking dream – with a detour through the world of accounting.
Elanik first applied to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s baking program but kept getting waitlisted, she said. In the meantime, she was accepted into the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s accounting program.
“After getting my degree in accounting, I thought I’d try it one more time and if baking didn’t work out then I’d have the accounting to fall back on,” she told Cabin Radio, a week after being named one of four winners of the ICC’s inaugural Hans-Pavia Rosing Leadership Award.
Elanik got into baking school at her final attempt, and is now in her second and final year.
A submitted photo shows Janessa Elanik with a cake she made in her bakery program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
“I just kind-of did a 180, but it’s all part of my eventual plan to open up a business,” she said.
“Baking is just so intricate and some of the things you make can be so beautiful and so tasty at the same time. I just love everything about it.”
Elanik is part of a class called “sensational alternatives,” where students take their skills and apply them to new creations. Her most recent is a chocolate bar with hazelnut filling and candied hazelnuts.
Her plan is to eventually open a bakery in Yellowknife. Before this, she wants to achieve a journeyman certificate and Red Seal in her chosen trade.
The Hans Pavia-Rosing award is named for the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s founding president, who passed away in 2018. The council represents around 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Greenland, Russia, and Canada.
“The award is for young Inuit who inspire others,” the council says on its website, calling recipients “good leaders and guiding stars.”
Elanik is so far the only Canadian to receive the award. She says the council’s aim of strengthening and promoting Inuit-led economic development applies to the work she’s doing.
“I guess they look to me as a leader,” she said, “so hopefully I kind-of earn that leadership title over the next few years.”
Elanik is going through an experience common to many from the territory – leaving the comforts of home for a passion and for education. “It’s tough at times, but I still do have a lot of support from my family, my friends and my chefs here at school,” she said.
“Reach out if you need help,” she added when asked how she would advise others who want to do something similar.
“Don’t be afraid to communicate how you are feeling. Every person who goes away from home struggles at times but it makes you a stronger person, so just stick to it.”
To get a virtual taste of Elanik’s work, check out her Instagram portfolio.