Have you been dreaming of more places to find Orsay’s decadent creme brûlées, shortcakes, tortes, macarons, tarts, eclairs, ice creams, and wonuts? If you haven’t been, you may need to re-evaluate your dreams! Starting April 9th, they will be at the Riverside Arts Market every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm with a booth full of your favorite sweet treats, including scoops and pints of their unique ice creams. These beautiful desserts will be prepared fresh every morning prior to their arrival at RAM. Pastry Chef Michael Bump has been behind the creation of Orsay’s memorable desserts since day one, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to the chef who has designed Jacksonville’s most authentic French pastries.
Michael studied at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon from 1996 to 1997 and then moved back to Monterey, California where he worked at a coffee house for a several years. That job had the most impact on Michael and he counts it as one of his favorite jobs. After he left there, he went over to a little coffee shop that had a kitchen. This is where he began to create pastries. “I started doing all their baking there,” Michael explained. “Scones, muffins, coffee cakes, cheesecakes. Anything you’d typically find in a coffee shop dessert case. Then, I went into a business partnership and bought a bakery. I gave my partner the money to get the first month’s rent taken care of and then that went south. I was only there for a few months doing wholesale. From there, I went to Kansas City and that was when I really started working in restaurants. Other than that it was always small coffee shops. I’ve been plugging away since!”
As far as finding his way to his current position at Orsay, Michael said that it was just well timed luck. “When I first got to Jacksonville I lined a job up with Let them Eat Cake. I worked there for like two weeks and Anita, the owner, said ‘this isn’t going to work, this is my home away from home!’ So she put a phone call into Jon Insetta and at the same time I came by and said that I needed to apply for a job. I didn’t realize what kind of restaurant it was so I was going to apply for a server position. It turned out Jon had been looking at my resume for my pastry experience. So the chef came up to me and said ‘Do you know how to do this and that…’ and I rambled recipes off and I got hired. So I’ve been here since day one.” Michael and Orsay couldn’t have been more mutually beneficial. At the beginning, Michael designed Orsay’s dessert menu as focusing around the four seasons. As it evolved, manager Jason Eddy and Michael decided to trim it down to a Spring Menu and a Fall Menu. The transition to the Spring Menu happened recently, and it is as beautiful as always. For those unfamiliar with Orsay’s dessert selections, Michael creates one list of larger desserts and one list of petit fours. The larger desserts are plenty for sharing after a multi-course meal at Orsay whereas the petit fours are bite sized treats for just a refreshing taste of dessert. The Spring Menu consists of the light and refreshing strawberry shortcake with lemon whipped mascarpone and lavender syrup and the clafoutis with fresh berries, vanilla honey ice cream and blackberry-agave syrup. If chocolate is more your craving, the dark chocolate cheesecake with crispy streusel crust, chocolate ice cream, and a mini chocolate macaron will take your breath away with its depth of flavors and layer after layer of chocolate richness. For traditionalists, the vanilla bean creme brûlée and bread pudding offer familiar flavors with elegant presentation.
While the dessert list has my heart, the petit fours always tempt me with the variety of daily flavors offered. The macarons, wonuts, petite creme brûlée, and sorbets and ice creams are always a surprise upon arrival and represent the creativity of Michael and his staff. The wonuts at Orsay took Jacksonville by storm when they finally appeared in our city after making their debut in a Chicago bakery. One of Michael’s servers actually brought up the idea of the wonut, and after research into recipes Michael made it his own. Staple flavors include the sweet and salty salted caramel and creme brulee while more exotic flavors have included red velvet, cookies and cream, strawberries and cream, and apple fritter. Pro tip: for a small upcharge you can top any of your wonuts with Orsay’s thick cut bacon pieces that take the flavors to the next level. Also recently added to the petit fours menu is a Dessert Tower for $20 which includes all the desserts on the petit fours menu and also includes a guarantee for the need of an intense nap afterwards. The Dessert Tower was another idea from Jason Eddy, and Michael thought he was crazy until they created 10 on the first night of the offering and now Michael has had to ramp up the scale of dessert production to satisfy their customer’s sweet cravings. While making more desserts may sound like just a little extra time, the dedication put into the dessert menu is actually more time consuming than one would think. Eclairs are piped daily and have to be re-piped as needed for restock. The tart shells are made every other day to ensure the crisp and buttery texture is preserved as the base for the custards and fillings. There is a reason that Orsay’s desserts touch your soul with each bite – it’s because a lot of heart goes into them every day.
The ice creams and sorbets are also ever-evolving. Michael’s Spring Menu ups the complexity of the ice creams by having four main bases whereas he previously had one main base. The Nutella ice cream is its own base (Yes, he has brought us Nutella ice cream!), the chocolate sorbet requires its own base, and the honey vanilla has its own as well. There are 32 flavors of ice cream in rotation and in the hands of the talented assistants. Rotating flavors include Butter Brickle, Rocky Road, and Mint Cookies and Cream. The most involved of the ice cream flavors includes their Banana Split that uses a chocolate ice cream, banana ice cream, pineapple topping, chocolate sauce, and maraschino cherries. Movie Night uses their famous popcorn ice cream with peanut M&Ms and a Coca-Cola Reduction. The Riverside Arts Market is a great chance for Michael to showcase a variety of his ice cream flavors, which are all made fresh daily on pacojets which creates Orsay’s signature ultra fine and creamy ice creams. Patrons of RAM can expect to see 10-12 ice cream flavors as well as 2 sorbets as options. These will be available by the scoop for a snack as you peruse the market or as a half pint or pint to take home and enjoy. Ice creams and sorbets are also available at the restaurant daily with an all inclusive sampling of the three flavors of the day for $9.
Other sweet treats expected to be at the market every Saturday will be the new Chocolate Coconut Brownie with Marcona Almond and a 66% dark chocolate, the elegant Valrona Dulcey Tart with a blonde chocolate ganache and chocolate crisp pearls, cookies, macarons, and crumb cakes which are part of Orsay’s brunch menu. Michael will be at the restaurant every Saturday morning at 5 am preparing these desserts to take straight to the market so that each dessert is at its freshest and best presentation. Anything not sold daily at the market comes straight back to Orsay to ensure that there is no food waste. Michael is even known to treat the other vendors at RAM to crumb cake slices to ensure that every item is enjoyed.
We love to ask chefs what menu item is most reflective of them as a person, and Michael’s story has been one of my favorites. With no hesitation, he told me, “The espresso torte. I came up with that dessert when I lived in Kansas City and I did a competition for the local coffee shop. It was the first competition I had ever entered. And I won. I was so frazzled by the whole thing because my boss did it the year before and she didn’t win and she was the Executive Chef and Pastry Chef. I was like ‘oh God I’m stepping on her toes.’ So I came up with this dessert and it was of course all based on coffee. I made three different coffee ice creams, I did the espresso torte which has coffee in the chocolate, coffee in the mousse, and coffee anglaise. I took seven different coffees from this company and incorporated them all into the same dessert. It was a little on the overwhelming side but that was the whole idea. When they called my name out I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. That was the most memorable experience I’ve ever had. I got a chef jacket with their logo on it and a $500 check. I thought that was pretty cool. So, that dessert has followed me. I will periodically change up an aspect. On our menu, I’m using a French coffee extract which I use in the chocolate ganache. The espresso is in the mousse. It has the white coffee ice cream which is coffee soaked in cream, then I pull out the oils from the coffee and it leaves it white. It has mocha anglaise on the plate and a coffee bean crunch on top made from coffee beans and marcona almonds to add another crunch. It’s definitely my most memorable dessert.” Not only is it memorable to Michael, it’s memorable to anyone who gets to taste it. I was fortunate after conducting the dessert photoshoot to be able to enjoy the desserts for the pictures. The espresso torte is filed among the food moments of my life that I won’t ever forget. The varying textures keep you involved in every bite of the dessert. The coffee flavors, while unified throughout the dish, vary based on which layer of dessert you’re eating at that moment. And the ice cream. Oh the ice cream. Your brain expects vanilla because of the white color, and instead the purest and most sincere flavor of coffee takes over. I’ve been thinking about that ice cream since I tasted it because it’s just flooring how a flavor can be so untainted by the cream base of the ice cream. It was enough to make this girl, who doesn’t drink coffee, crave it daily.
Michael’s future is intertwined with Orsay and Black Sheep, the relationship with Jon and the partnership with the company is a wonderful one for everyone involved. That doesn’t rule out Michael’s dream of having his own bakery again though, which he would fill with classic french pastries, like croissants and brioche. This would fill a void in the Jacksonville pastry scene that is growing gradually. “I’m beginning to see more pastry jobs out there. You’ve got Calli Marie doing her cakes, you have Candace Kirkland at Bistro Aix stepping up her game, it’s great seeing her get excited about it. I don’t know what’s going on as far as HobNob goes but I’m sure they’ll have a great pastry chef there. It’s up and coming. It’s growing.” Michael is an integral part of that growing pastry scene with his constant raising of the bar with the seasonally reflective and classically intentioned French pastries at Orsay. Luckily for us, we now have several places to indulge in them throughout the city, whether it be under the bridge overlooking the river on Saturdays or nestled in the comfortable French bistro in Avondale.