October 28th is National Chocolate Day and celebrating this delicious holiday is a must for any self respecting chocoholic! I choose to celebrate the beauty that is chocolate by sampling a few chocolates by Francois Payard – and it was a most delicious celebration!
As a third generation French Pasty Chef from Nice, Francois Payard’s heritage is as sweet as his chocolates. Francois cultivated his passion for the art of Pastry as a child in his grandfather’s acclaimed shop, Au Nid des Friandises on the Riviera. Classic French pastries are a family tradition carried on by his parents and grandparents for over fifty years.
After honing his skills under the tutelage of his family, Francois moved to Paris where he focused on the artistry and refinement of elevating classic desserts – skills that opened new horizons in his career. While in Paris, Francois held positions as the Pastry Chef at La Tour d’Argent and Lucas Carton – both three star Michelin rated restaurants.
Eventually Francois’ desire for travel led him to New York. I spoke with him about his experience in transitioning from Paris to New York. “It was culture shock,” says Francois. “In New York people are always working. It is more stressful than working in France, but the rewards are also greater.”
Francois does not mind putting in the hours and commitment required to succeed in New York – a commitment that is evident in his successes over the last two decades. He arrived in New York in 1990 and his first position was as Pastry Chef at Le Berardin where he became known for his beautifully presented creations filled with unique flavors. In 1993, he joined Chef Daniel Boulud for the opening of Restaurant Daniel where his chocolate and seasonal fruit selections were a favorite of restaurant guests. In 1995, he was deemed “Pastry Chef of the Year” by The James Beard Foundation.
Francois’ childhood dream had been to open his own restaurant and in August of 1997 that dream became reality with the opening of Payard Patisserie, which remained one of Manhattan’s finest culinary destinations until it closed in July 2009.
“We have a saying in the restaurant business,” explains Francois. “When you come to New York from France in this business, if you make it six months you will stay forever.”
Francois has proven that saying and we are fortunate to have his talents in this country. His lists of awards are too numerous to list. He has opened branches of Payard in Las Vegas, Korea and Japan. He opened FPB – a casual bakery – in several locations in New York. Francois opened his first FP Patisserie at the Plaza Hotel in Spring 2012 and last week he opened the flagship FP Patisserie on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at 1293 Third Avenue at 74th Street.
In November 2009, Francois Chocolate Bar opened in New York. Devoted to Chef Payard’s chocolate creations, it has been described as a chocolate jewelry shop! Chef Payard prefers the intense chocolate flavor of 70% cacao as the base for his creations. He infuses the cacao with unique flavors including jasmine, coffee, caramel with salt, almond, key lime and ginger to provide an incredible collection of chocolates.
While Chef Payard’s awards and accomplishments are truly amazing, at the end of the day – even for him – it is all about the chocolate. “I eat chocolate everyday,” he says.”
I like the way he thinks and as I celebrated National Chocolate Day by sampling a few of Chef Payard’s chocolates – which were as beautiful as they were delicious – perhaps my favorite part was the note tucked into the box which read: “Chef Francois Payard enjoys a piece of dark chocolate every night before bed and wants you to indulge as well.”
So indulge I did. You should too. www.payard.com