François is the owner of FP Patisserie and François Bakery in NYC and a former pastry chef at Le Bernardin, Restaurant Daniel and Le Cirque. In 1995, he was named The James Beard Foundation “Pastry Chef of the Year.” Two years later, he opened his own bistro on Lexington Avenue, which is where I first met him. He closed that place after 12 years when the landlord doubled his rent when his lease ended.
Speaking with him recently on the eve of the publication of his latest book “Payard Cookies,” he smiled when he shared memories of that shop. He recalled having hosted a few episodes of Sex and the City and The Sopranos, plus welcoming many stars including Sigourney Weaver. Those who frequented the shop, may remember the hand-painted cookies offered for each holiday. The new book — due on shelves November 3 — offers photos and instructions so you may replicate them.
His recipes include weights in addition to volume as he explained, “baking is a science.” We’ll be offering a couple of those cookie ones here on BiteoftheBest.com in the next few weeks. When suggesting the gluten-free recipes to be included, his eyes twinkled as he mentioned that he had offered all those before for Passover, a holiday that also doesn’t allow for any wheat flour.
Which food product or gadget would you never give up? Silpat because of how versatile it is. I can use it for baking, chocolate and sugar decoration. It’s simply the best for pastry.
What do you like to serve when you entertain? I’ll always have a salad ready. After that, I only serve one main dish so my time isn’t spent in the kitchen. It’s no fun if I can’t join my friends and family! As for drinks- wine. Always wine.
Describe your “last meal?” The best steak. A huge, ribeye steak cooked perfectly. Or fresh sushi.
What food is your secret guilty pleasure? Cookies and chocolate. The things that I’m surrounded by constantly!
What is one food product most people don’t know about, but should? I would say vanilla beans. Most chefs think they’re strictly for pastry — I disagree. An amazing summer tomato salad with vanilla beans is fresh and bright. In France, we put vanilla beans in our beurre blanc and serve it with lobster.
Describe your worst kitchen disaster and how (if possible) you saved it: It’s hard to think of the worst, every day there’s something new. If I have to think of one, I would say when Hurricane Sandy came. I had friends to help me save the macaron production and the chocolate production. There was really nothing we could do besides wait for the light to turn back on. I know I’m fortunate compared to the loss of other people…it’s heartbreaking.
Who was your most influential mentor? My mentor is my first boss for my first apprenticeship. He taught me everything in the kitchen, and from him I learned passion and drive. He guided me to who and what I am today. Second mentor is my dad. He always motivated me to achieve.
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