The Star-Herald

Former Cafe Sorpreso head chef finds success with home-based meal service

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Like many in the restaurant business, Ryon Basu found himself unemployed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after one of Presque Isle’s most beloved dining establishments closed this past spring.

Basu is the former head chef of Cafe Sorpreso, which brought fine-dining to the city’s Main Street for over a decade before closing in May. With no other means of earning a living or sharing his passion for cooking, Basu started a home-based business — Basu’s Kitchen — to stay connected with his community and provide a much-needed service.

Every week Basu posts a menu on the Basu’s Kitchen Facebook page and prepares meals for curbside pickup or home deliveries in the Presque Isle region. The meals range from the popular chicken pad thai to an array of soups and salads, as well as specialty dishes like Indian chicken curry, stir fry and butternut squash puree.

“People have been very excited. They’ve had some great feedback on the food and the service,” Basu said. “[The experience] has pushed me to better myself and to offer food I might not have thought of before.”

Ryon Basu prepares scallops at his home, as part of his new meal service, Basu’s Kitchen. (Courtesy of Ryon Basu)

For Basu, cooking has always been more than just preparing and serving meals. At 17 he enrolled in the culinary arts program at Caribou Regional Technology Center where he quickly realized that he had a talent and passion for creating meals that people can enjoy while creating memories with one another.

After graduating from Presque Isle High School, Basu attended the culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He returned to Presque Isle upon receiving his degree and became a chef at Cafe Sorpreso. 

Though he briefly tried his luck at restaurant work in southern Maine, Basu said that Presque Isle was where he wanted to remain. He became head chef of Cafe Sorpreso, where he worked until the business’s recent closure.

“I definitely miss the busy hours of the restaurant. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of ‘being in the weeds,’ as we called it, when you start to run behind in the kitchen but you still get everything out on time,” Basu said. “And I miss my co-workers.”

The “signature fall salad with beets” is one of many meals that Ryon Basu has prepared as part of Basu’s Kitchen, his new home-based meal service. (Courtesy of Ryon Basu)

For now, Basu plans on continuing Basu’s Kitchen and to offer private chef services. He hopes to eventually open his own fine-dining restaurant in Aroostook County and bring back some of the cuisine and experiences people remember from Cafe Sorpreso.

“People loved having a restaurant where they could sit down and enjoy a nice meal together,” Basu said. “It’s definitely a passion of mine to bring that type of food and experience to a region like this.”

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