Sunday, September 14, 2008

The mixing bowl: Francois Payard

Simply put, Francois Payard is one of the world’s best, most celebrated pastry chefs. After growing up in Nice with a grandfather and father who were also pastry chefs, he conquered Paris and then came to New York nearly two decades ago. Somewhere between creating his sublime éclairs, madeleines and cakes (and opening restaurants around the world), he finds time to travel, publish cookbooks and get a high-speed adrenaline rush.

Growing up, my favorite sweet was:
Candy bars. I even had an account at the local grocery store and I would buy them on “credit.”

My favorite sweet now is:
Ice cream and sorbet. I love it plain, with fruit or whipped cream. After a heavy meal, it makes the perfect ending.

My personal favorite from Payard Patisserie is:
The Candy Bar because it reminds me of the candy bars I used to love to eat as a child.

What I love about the Upper East Side is:
The quiet and discreet location. It’s a perfect location for Payard Patisserie & Bistro. I especially love the townhouses on the side streets because they remind me of Europe.

Truffles or pralines:
I like pralines better; even if they are more old fashioned. With an open mind, they can be very versatile. They can be made with sesame, peanuts, orange, almond or hazelnut. The possibilities are endless.

White, milk or dark:
I love dark chocolate. I also especially like bittersweet chocolate because it has a bit of acidity and a beautiful finish. Quality chocolate will never have a sandy texture like a cheap chocolate would.

Caramel, ganache or cream:
Caramel. I love that it can be chewy like a Carambar, soft and gluey like a Mars bar, or creamy like the ganache I make in the patisserie. I always add a pinch of salt because it brings out a beautiful flavor to the caramel.

One thing I always tell people is that caramel is not just water and sugar; it's a distinct flavor like coffee. Caramel has to be perfectly cooked, not burnt, to get the perfect flavor and the right balance.

The perfect pairing:
Dark chocolate and berries, or the sweetness of milk chocolate and the acidity of passion fruit. I also love caramel and salt, vanilla and pistachio, and fresh raspberry coulis. I could just keep going.

I'd love to create new flavors for:
Milk chocolate, almond and pistachio, lychee, rosewater, raspberry and meringue, dark chocolate, tea and lemon bergamot.

Some of these flavors can be complicated, but can also be adventurous for people who want to sample something different. I love a challenge and am always thinking about the next perfect creation.

Kitchen essentials:
A scale, knife, KitchenAid standing mixer and a Thermomix. All of these small tools are perfect, especially when you want to test recipes for small quantities.

Style essentials:
A stylish watch (not necessarily expensive), a Lacoste shirt, jeans and Gucci loafers. Not just for the brand, but because they are well made and very comfortable; chefs spend a lot of time on their feet.

Pastry chefs I admire:
My father, Guy Payard, and Pierre Hermé, the most creative and realistic pastry chef out there.

I'm most inspired when:
I’m traveling, seeing new things and tasting new ingredients. Afterwards, I try to remember that taste and incorporate them into new creations.

How much is too much?
I have no limits, so it is never too much. I only feel limited by others.

Favorite movie snack:
Always popcorn

Guilty pleasure:
Cognac and cigars

Other favorites:

I love speed sports, action movies and motorcycles. I ride mine to work every morning. I just recently went skydiving this summer.


Dannie Evans said...

I used to be a very happy "chocoholic." I couldn't get enough. I finally kicked my chocolate habit. I was introduced to pralines. I've had delicacies that were called pralines. But, I've been introduced to the real things. Now I'm happily addicted to pralines. And I tell every sweet adict that I come in contact with.

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