One glance at the pastry display in Picnic reveals candied hazelnut and Nutella banana bread, apricot and rosemary rugelach, gluten-free oreos, trail mix cookies made with 19 ingredients, chocolate chip cannoli, sundry muffins, cookies, and croissants. The enticing aromas immediately make a hungry visitor’s mouth water.
With her small frame and collection of burns from quiche trays, pastry chef Li Corn’s battle wounds from the kitchen are a mosaic of her diverse experiences in baking. Corn started working in traditional New York Italian bakeries when she was just 16.
“The second I walked into the bakery and felt the flour under my feet, I knew that is where I wanted to be,” she recalls.
Corn believes Picnic is unique because everyone there is passionate about what they are doing, working to make classic American pastries and dishes even better.
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in New York, Corn holds a bachelor’s degree of professional studies in baking and pastry arts management. She has worked in food and beverage management for Four Seasons hotel properties in Jackson, Houston, Whistler, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean, and is currently writing a cookbook.
“I am a complete foodie,” she says, “I knew from a young age that I wanted to have a career in food. Pastry is a science and an art put together.”
Corn works in production and management at both Picnic and its partner restaurant, Persephone, which allows for maximum creativity. She manages special orders, writes her own recipes, creates new products and designs, develops menus, and trains and manages pastry cooks.
“I have the freedom to be creative doing what I love,” Corn says. “I literally dream of recipes that I can implement and turn into reality at my job.”
Picnic provides Corn with the opportunity to explore innovative ideas that don’t fit into Persephone’s French-inspired identity.
“I love taking American classics and reinventing them,” Corn says. There is nothing better than a freshly baked pastry with extraordinary ingredients.”
Often using savory ingredients in traditionally sweet pastries, she prefers the handmade method to mass production.
Opening her hands wide, she smiles and fervently states, “My favorite tools in the kitchen are my hands.”