Learning with Chef John Bach-Sorensen is definitely a picnic at Picnic Gourmet and Café in Newport, RI

You haven’t lived until you’ve had one of Chef John Bach-Sorensen’s croissants, fresh from the oven. You might have had one when he was providing them at Boulangerie Obelisk on Spring Street years ago, and we are fortunate that he is back with pastry.  John’s impressive cooking/baking background and his wife Tracy’s hospitality at Picnic on Bellevue (www.picnicnewport.com) will impress and satisfy, so be sure to stop in for those magical croissants and more–breakfast, sandwiches, salads…and they cater!

Students comment:

The Culinary Arts Club recently went to Picnic Gourmet and Café to meet with Chef John Bach-Sorensen. I loved how the two shops were set up to be bright and airy with beautiful food displayed all around. As Chef told us about how he became a chef and his experiences in the different restaurants, we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Our first course was fresh croissants, which had been taken out of the oven literally seconds before we ate them. They were perfectly warm and flaky and buttery, and I am convinced that it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. For our second course, we had a delicious clam chowder with fresh bread and some lovely cheeses. Chef explained his philosophy on food and showed us a few different techniques for using puff pastry, then allowed us to show our creativity by working with the puff pastry. We made different tart shells and designs, then as the pastries baked, we practiced our mixing skills by making whipped cream to accompany the fruit salad and pastries. I learned a lot about the dedication and skills it takes to become a chef while enjoying some truly fantastic food. Hannah Banderob ’17

Baking with Chef Bach-Sorensen at Newport’s Picnic Gourmet and Cafe was both a workout and a pleasure. After sampling their unbelievable croissants – which were enormous, flaky, and buttery – with a fine cheese and meat platter, we got to try our hands at making real bakery-style puff pastries. The results – though not quite as aesthetically pleasing as Chef Bach-Sorensen’s demonstration pastry – were delicious! We jumped in part of the way through the process of making a puff pastry from scratch: we saw dough kneaded, twisted, and cut into the many flat layers necessary to give the pastries their “puff,” but we started our pastry designs with pre-prepared dough. Once our creations were safely in the oven, we started on whipping our whipped cream. This proved to be a bit more difficult than any of us was prepared for, but through half team effort and half Chef Bach-Sorensen’s effort, we whisked the heavy whipping cream into a palatable topping.

The trip to Picnic was really hands-on and fun – not to mention informational. Chef Bach-Sorensen covered topics ranging from eco-friendly agriculture to Danish cooking tradition as he took us through the steps of becoming an independent professional baker. We learned a lot, ate a lot, and came away with some edible evidence of our experience. Max Bogan ’16

Baking is not one of my specialties. The precision in mixing the batter has always troubled me, and I always messed up somehow. However, the chef that we visited completely changed the way I think about baking. As Chef Bach-Sorensen told us to use our creativity, I really began to see how baking was about the imagination, not the technicality. Also, his career as a chef really inspired me. Starting at the bottom as a potato peeler and working up the ladder to become a chef at Michelin starred restaurants really showed his dedication and passion for cooking. I think in this visit I valued our host more than the French pastry he gave to us. I wish to come back again and learn something else from him. — Seha Choi ’16

Newport has given me another surprise with its food culture. Right across the Viking Hotel, a new store named Picnic Gourmet and Cafe recently settled down. Surprisingly, its owners, Chef and Mrs. Bach-Sorensen, are parents of my schoolmate, Tatum Bach-Sorensen. The store is separated into two sections–the elegant café and the lively shop–each with its own uniqueness. The café is decorated with stylish and classy European furniture, including wood chairs and tables adorned with gold trim, while the lighthearted picnic supplies fill the shop as art pieces, like folding chairs hanging on the wall. Chef and Mrs. Bach-Sorensen warmly welcomed us with delicacies, stories, and charm. While Chef Bach-Sorensen conveyed stories of his career and explained the cooking industry (the most memorable one for me was definitely how he put his finger over the burning stove after he cut himself so that he could continue cooking), Mrs. Bach-Sorensen prepared freshly made lemonade, croissants, clam chowder, and cheese for us. My opinion toward croissants and clam chowder was completely revolutionized. The croissant effused a light vanilla milky aroma and tasted extremely soft and dense while the clam chowder reached a perfect balance between creaminess and saltiness. Afterwards, we even created some small pastries on our own with professional help.

Through this adventure, the enjoyment of food satisfied my desire while, more importantly, Chef and Mrs. Bach-Sorensen’s words “Live with passion, devotion, and creativity” offered me immense inspiration. Kevin Jiang ’17

The Culinary Arts Club traveled to Picnic Gourmet and Café in Newport to meet Chef Bach-Sorensen. We began our time there by listening to Chef tell us about his life. He moved to America at the age of 15 and began his culinary career quite young. He studied and worked in Paris for a bit before moving to London to cook for the EU Embassy. He explained the importance of food and how it relates to the environment and to our bodies. He also encouraged us to be very creative in our food ventures and always try new things. We ate a delicious croissant fresh out of the oven, along with cheeses and clam chowder, while he spoke to us. We then got to create our own puff pastries. We all produced a variety of designs of puff pastry, and they all were delicious. Once they came out of the oven, we were able to top them with fruit salad and fresh whipped cream. I had a lot of fun learning how to bake puff pastry and also learning to develop an appreciation for food beyond its taste and appearance. I hope to go there again soon!   Grace Gibbons ’17

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