Why Celebrated Chef François Payard Chose The North Fork Over The Hamptons For New Eatery Southold Social

Francois PayardPhoto Credit: Felipe Coronado

James Beard award-winning Chef François Payard has opened a new bistro, Southold Social, within the namesake hamlet located in the heart of North Fork. Chef-owner Payard is a third-generation chef who, after honing his skills by his family’s side and at La Tour d’Argent in Paris, moved to New York where he worked at Le Bernardin as well as Restaurant Daniel — where he received a James Beard award. He later opened the eponymous François Payard Patisserie & Bistro. He has won numerous other awards, such as the “Ordre du Mérite Agricole” by the French Government.

Chef Payard has partnered with revered North Fork restaurateur Adam Lovett, who co-owners and operates Southold Social. The restaurant seeks to embrace hyperlocal maritime culture, rural wine country and farmland — highlighting local ingredients sourced from the esteemed bounty of Northfork’s agriculture and aquaculture. The bistro menu highlights generous portions of housemade pasta, locally-sourced meats and seafood, bright and tart salads as well as crushable local North Fork and Old World wines. Menu items include housemade cavatelli with veal ragu, brine-cured pork chop, Montauk black sea bass, summer truffle polenta, a lobster roll with piment d’espelette, a burger au poivre served with a mountain of pommes frites and line-caught crudo.

The recently renovated bi-level restaurant, which displays all of the natural hewn of its original wooden beams and beautiful teak flooring, features four distinct environments: a classic dining room; an energetic, buzzing bar area; an extensive tented outdoor patio and a top floor 38-seat private dining space — perfect for a rehearsal dinner or special event. A grand fire pit for oyster roasts is slated to open within the outdoor patio by mid-summer.

Here, we chatted with this award-winning chef on his wonderful new culinary concept.
Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Dave Benthal Photography

What inspired you to open a bistro on the North Fork, of all places, as opposed to the Hamptons proper?

I was already on the North Fork for a year, and when I had the opportunity to open Southold Social, I ceased it. The people are very friendly, laidback, and supportive.

How would you describe the menu at Southold Social?

The menu is similar to a bistro or brasserie, like Payard, but with Mediterranean influence, like the pasta and crudo. There is something for everyone on this menu.

Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Dave Benthal Photography

What would you consider to be the signature dish(es)?

There are a number of signature dishes. The Montauk Catch is local, the Crisp Half Marrakesh Chicken is completely different from anything else on the menu, the crudo is delicious and untraditional. The Little Ram Oysters are another signature – they are excellent and fresh every day.

Tell us about your variation on the lobster roll.

When I was at TBar, I felt the need to have a lobster roll. I used to stop somewhere on the way to Montauk with lobster rolls that I loved. My variation uses just a little bit of mayo, ketchup, Tabasco, piment d’espelette, and a pinch of juice from a Meyer lemon that adds a French finish. This way, the lobster shines on its own, and there’s not too much dressing. The bun is simply seared on both sides and cooked to order.

Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Dave Benthal Photography

How is Southold Social similar/different from your former Manhattan Payard Bistro and Patisserie concepts?

Payard was really all about being a French bistro; it was on the Upper East Side and very high profile. I did not want to do something too French over here; after spending a lot of time at Southold General and learning more about the locals, I found that they like a lot of Italian food. That’s why I have many pastas on the menus. There are a lot of pizza places, but not many restaurants that have pasta. Making the pasta from scratch everyday is worth it––when everybody leaves, they always enjoy the food.

As a James Beard awarded pastry chef, what made you decide to focus primarily on savory?

My dad was not just a pastry chef. People think bakers just know how to make chocolate mousse, but we can cook as much as bake. Growing up in France, we did not have supermarkets, but individual butcher shops, produce shops, and so on. So, when I was little, I cooked a lot and worked in the best restaurants. I love pastries, but I like to be on fire.

Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Dave Benthal Photography

Do you intentionally avoid sweet on this menu? If not, how do your sweet offerings play into the menu?

I did not want to do anything over-the-top with sweets. Everything is well-balanced and delicious. The lemon tart is made with some basil so it’s not too sweet and a little more savory. The Payard Chocolate Dome is inspired by my classic dessert from Payard. The buttermilk panna cotta is a very light after-dinner treat, and the mango pavlova is for ice cream lovers. Of course, the deconstructed chocolate cake is for chocolate people.

Is it correct that you are also the Culinary Director at The Shoals “boatel” and Southold General in the same town? What are your offerings like at these sister venues?

Yes; in the mornings, I am at the General, where we offer pastries, salads, and sandwiches. I do breakfast at The Shoals and then oversee the food truck, which is more seafood-oriented. People love the oysters and lobster rolls.

Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Felipe Coronado

The Netflix series Emily in Paris recently popularized the Tarte Tropézienne. Now that the tropical weather is upon us, can we hope to see a Payard version at Southold Social or General?

I used to make a lot of Tarte Tropézienne. We may call it something different at Southold Social and General, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do it.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

To me, the greatest luxury in life is to be able to do what I love everyday: cook and bake.

Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Felipe Coronado

Southold Social is locoated at 56125 Main Rd, Southold, NY 11971
Southold SocialPhoto Credit: Dave Benthal Photography