Chef François Payard On Being A Culinary Director

The first time I met legendary pastry chef François Payard, he was standing behind the counter in awe of another NYC food legend, Domenico DeMarco. Payard was just like everyone else at DiFara as he waited for a pizza, leaning on the counter, phone up, watching in admiration as a man treated dough as respectfully as he does. “He is amazing, he reminds me of my father,” he said.

francois-payard-headshot-promoPhoto Credit: KarVer

The French-born chef knows the other side of a crowd counter full of cameras very well. Few chefs have changed the culinary landscape of New York City the way François Payard has. When he came to NYC from La Tour d’Argent, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Paris, he headed the pastry kitchen at landmarks like Le Bernardin and Daniel Boulud’s  Restaurant Daniel where he was named “Pastry Chef of the Year” by both Bon Appetit and the James Beard Foundation. His Payard Patisserie & Bistro, FP Patisserie, and FP were some of the first pastry shops in the city to house those enormous, around the corner, tourist lines.

As he celebrates the opening of KarVér Brasserie And Bakery Café, a string of modern brasseries where Payard has been appointed Culinary Director, he is once again on the portrait-mode end of a slew of smart phones.

KarVer Brasserie in downtown Brooklyn
KarVer Brasserie in downtown Brooklyn

Photo Credit: Oleg March

“I don’t want people to talk about me. I want them to talk about KarVér. The food, the staff, the bread!” he says. Easier said than done, because when you talk about the bread at KarVér, you can’t help but talk about Payard. “The bread here is made every hour, like in France.” he explained.

The chef sourced a Bongard Paneotrade machine that has the capability to bake fresh baguettes and bread every ten minutes. At KarVér guests can create their own sandwich with a selection of bread options, fillings and dressings. Kind of like that lunchtime salad bowl, only here, it includes a fresh baked loaf unique breads like olive oil sun dried tomato, calamato, squid ink bread and even pretzel-style and sunflower bread.

“It’s the way we do it in France and it should be done here the same. Not baked overnight and then stale bread for lunch.”

Francois Payard Toasts the Opening of KarVer by Anna UsachevaPhoto Credit: Anna Usacheva

Also on offer are shared plates such as arancini, flatbreads, charcuterie and cheese boards served with house terrine, salmon rillettes and rocitta with chiles. The Sheapshead Bay, Brooklyn location  – which Payard calls the “Palm Beach of Brooklyn” – serves a full dinner menu with dishes like moules frites, branzino, roasted duck breast, lamb shank and chicken paillard – all created with locally curated ingredients and in the Old World culinary tradition. 

“The food is exactly what I want to eat every day,” Payard said.

Payard’s Executive Chef team includes Byron Panafiel, an alum of Bilboquet and Rotisserie Georgette, BLT Steak and Buddakan and chef Dipak Chudasama.

You’ve headed pastry kitchens at some of the most iconic restaurants in the world. What lessons came from those experiences?

I’ve learned to keep my eyes open, and keep it fresh. The world of gastronomy is ever changing.

How did you come to join KarVér as Culinary Director?

I was approached by Sally Chironis, who I’ve worked with before. She used to be the CFO at Le Bernadin. She called and asked me to come on board.

How different is the dining scene in Brooklyn to what you are used to?

The dining scene in Brooklyn has a very different clientele and very different neighborhood culture. I’m still trying to adapt.

IMGP4278-IMGP4280 (1)Photo Credit: Oleg March

Sheepshead Bay is kind of a hidden secret of a neighborhood to Brooklyn natives and Emmons Avenue is famous for it’s food scene. What’s it like being part of that?

Sheepshead Bay is the Palm Beach of Brooklyn. Every night, people dress up and come out to the avenue, walk up and down. It’s on the water, there are restaurants, bars, lounges. The summer will be a lot of fun.

Baking bread to order is only really seen in France? How is the bread program at KarVér  like those in France?

The bread program at KarVér is mostly used for our sandwiches, and the only difference is the bread has less of a crust, which is a favorite in France.

What is your first kitchen memory?

When I was in the kitchen with my Dad at age 9, trying to help and making a big mess.

Who instilled your love of cooking in you?

My dad and my grandparents! I’m a third generation pastry chef.

What is your favorite thing to bake?


IMG_1277Photo Credit: Anna Usacheva