The Canadian National Exhibition (also known as ‘the Ex’) is an end-of-summer tradition in Toronto with its assortment of games, rides, and new deep fried foods. I returned to the Ex after reporting on my first encounter with the ‘Perogie Chef’ stand three years ago where I met the owner Boris Hirniak who was serving me. A popular figure among the Ex, now residing in Brampton he used to commute from Winnipeg to his booth every year to serve his varenyky, holubtsi and kovbasa (sometimes in burger form) from his Baba’s recipes.
When I came back to the booth this year, it was exactly how it was three years ago like many of the booths that had occupied the food building for decades. I asked for Boris again in an attempt to a proper interview for the site, but I was shocked to learn that he had passed away:
Midway through last year’s Exhibition, Hirniak was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died Nov. 28.
"We used to call him the Ukrainian don," Thurber said.
He was well-loved outside the Exhibition, too, whether he was staffing the bar at his wife’s pub or acting as marshal at the local golf course.
"Guys used to have arguments, and they would come to him. And whichever side he chose, that went," Thurber said.
Hirniak would celebrate his Aug. 29 birthday each year at the perogy stand. This upcoming year would have marked two milestones: his 65th birthday and his 25th year in the food building.
His wife ran the booth the following year, but passed away soon after as well. Now the booth is run by a family friend who luckily hasn’t changed a thing:
If you’re lucky you just might find their brand of perogies in your local grocery store:
And while the line for this booth can get real busy, across the Ex’s food building is another vendor to try: Supreme Pierogies & Cabbage Rolls.
The Ex runs until Labour Day Monday, let me know in the comments if you get a chance to go. And as they say, smachnoho!