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Refrigerator Look Book: Francois Payard and Fernanda Capobianco

Copabianco's and Payard's latest cookbooks, The Vegan Divas Cookbook and Payard Deserts launched together late last year.  (Photo: Francois Payard and Fernanda Capobianco)
(Photo: Francois Payard and Fernanda Capobianco)

What did Francois Payard, famed owner of the international Francois Payard Bakery enterprise (and known for butter, butter, and more butter), and Fernanda Capobianco, Brazilian founder of Vegan Divas bakery in New York City (known for absolutely NO butter), serve at their wedding?

“Even though I am vegan, I know that everyone has their own journey, and I can’t always impose this on my friends, to eat what I eat,” 33-year-old Capobianco says. “It was easy for me to still eat vegan without serving only vegan options.”

That being said, when Payard and Capobianco first met in Brazil (she was a former manager at the Payard outpost in Rio De Janeiro), she did try to turn him on to…meatless cuisine. “In our first meeting, we went to a raw vegan restaurant,” says 47-year-old Payard. “I was pretty scared!”

That was then. Now, the couple’s found the sweet spot when it comes to their dinner routine, with Payard happily preparing vegan dishes like polenta with fresh vegetables, and Capobianco prepping beans and raw salads.

Also in the spirit of doing things together, their latest cookbooks, The Vegan Divas Cookbook and Payard Desserts had a joint launch late last year. (Take your pick!)

Here’s what the unlikely culinary pair cooks up in their New York City apartment, when they’re not each at work baking in their respective buttery or butter-free fashions.

Payard Fridge
(Photo: Francois Payard and Fernanda Capobianco)

I see some gorgeous ripe avocados. How do you prepare them? Capobianco: I eat avocado every day. In the morning I make a toast with multi-grain bread and sliced avocados, lime juice, and sprouts. If I’m hungry any other time of the day, my favorite snack would be avocado. I eat it with a spoon!

I’m a fan of spooning out avocado, too. I notice a lot of great fresh greens, like the kale. What do you make with it? Payard: Slightly cooked with water, some extra virgin olive oil, caramelized onions, and some soy sauce. Fernanda makes smoothies with the greens. She uses kale, banana, almond butter, and mint, or other herbs.

Sounds delish. And what are the greens in the drawer? How do you eat them? Capobianco: Broccoli rabe, collard greens, arugula, broccoli, fennel, and scallions. Either in a salad or slightly cooked and very simple with little olive oil and lemon juice. In the summer I clean them and eat them raw crudite style with a garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, and jalapeno sauce.

Creative! What’s in those plastic containers on the top shelf to the very far left? Payard: All the dippings that I get from Amish Market. They are tofu dippings or taramasalata or something they have as the special of the week. They are my weakness!

I’ll have to check those out. And what’s in the container on the top to the back right? Is that soup? Did you make it? Capobianco: Those are the Cesare Casella Italian beans that I cook. Ten varieties, with bay leaf, garlic head, and carrots. The secret is to soak them for 24 hours before cooking. I make them, keep them in containers in the fridge, and eat them over the week. Each week I cook a different type…lentils, adzuki, black, red, chick pea…

Smart! I see wine in the bottom drawer. How often do you drink and how do you pair this with a healthy lifestyle? Payard: I drink a glass of wine almost every night. If it’s summer I drink a rose or white wine, but during the winter it will be a red wine for sure. I try to exercise at the gym at least three times a week and avoid too many glasses of wine so I don’t get too tired.

And do you eat out a lot? Capobianco: We do, trying friends’ new restaurants or at events. Francois never has breakfast or lunch at home, he always eats at his office at Francois Payard Bakery on West Houston Street. He likes to cook a fresh pasta from Rafetto, next door to his office, and always likes to create a vegan version of an elaborate meal. He also orders Japanese food once a week, which I hate!

Ha! And what’s a typical day for you? Capobianco: I have my smoothie or avocado toast with a strong espresso for breakfast. For dinner, I’ll have a green salad with seasonal veggies, and I never use salt in the salad. I chop olives for the salty flavor. I also need my beans or brown rice, otherwise I will be hungry at night! I try to balance meals with half of it cooked and half of it raw. —Jamie McKillop

For more information, check out The Vegan Divas Cookbook and Payard Deserts