Culinary Power Couple Leads ‘A Hamptons Happening’

(This article first appeared in the July 6, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


The twelfth annual “A Hamptons Happening” will take place Saturday at the home of Maria and Kenneth Fishel in Bridgehampton. This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Center. Honorees include American television chef and author Sandra Lee, founder and owner of Surf Lodge Montauk Jayma Cardoso and CEO of Lafayette 148 New York Deirdre Quinn. In addition, the event will honor lead chef couple Fernanda Capobianco and François Payard.


Brazilian native, Fernanda Capobianco previously managed and owned The Payard Restaurant and Pastry shops in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, before developing all-natural, organic recipes with the freshest ingredients for her own desserts and sandwiches. Having lost her dad to diabetes at a young age, she understood the American health crisis. Upon her move to New York in 2009 she became a board member of the New York Coalition of Healthy School Foods.


Capobianco affirmed that “Vegan or not, everyone will opt for healthier options in the near future,” as she founded the Vegan Divas baked goods and dessert brand in 2012. Her products are currently sold throughout the U.S. with a flagship location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In addition to her successful health conscious products, Capobianco launched her book The Vegan Divas Cookbook in 2014 and has monthly columns in Isweet Magazine and Organic Spa Magazine.


Her husband, François Payard is a third generation pastry chef from France who moved to New York in 1990 upon taking his first position at the three Michelin starred restaurant Le Bernardin. Years later, in 2009, the François Chocolate Bar opened in New York City. It has been described as “a chocolate jewelry shop.” In 2010 the causal bakery, FPB (François Payard Bakery), opened on West Houston Street in downtown New York City.


The year of 2012 proved to be a very successful year for Payard with two additional openings of FPB, a patisserie at the Plaza Hotel in the Todd English Food Hall and his first flagship store on the Upper East Side. In addition to his culinary success, Payard is the author of popular cookbooks Bite Size: Elegant Recipes for Entertaining, Simply Sensational Desserts, Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone, Payard Desserts, and Payard Cookies.


This year at “A Hamptons Happening” guests can expect a sweet surprise from Payard. He’ll be sharing his Parisian macarons and limited edition chocolate collection, which is 70% Dark Chocolate called “Gran Cru” from the company Valrhona, located in the small French village of Tain L’Hermitage.


When he comes out to the East End, Payard goes straight to the market stands to gather vegetables and fruit, quality that far surpasses that of any grocery store in the city. And, of course, he likes to pick up some wine from the local vineyards. “I really love a deep red wine with dinner or a white wine to go with a summer fish.”


As a culinary power couple there are bound to be some differences between Fernanda and Francois, especially with such individual cooking styles. Payard explains, “We like to eat healthy — regardless of the occasion! Fernanda’s vegan and not a sweet eater. I’ll whip up some fresh grilled vegetables and she’s happy.”


As for the outlook of the culinary arts for the upcoming years, Payard predicts more locavore and farm to table cooking. “A move towards a healthier lifestyle where we create great flavor combinations without compromising the freshness of the ingredients. Simplicity is key.”

Interview With Antonia Lofaso

(This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)

Celebrity Chef & Restauranteur Profile: Antonia Lofaso

TV Celebrity Chef, author and mother, Chef Antonia Lofaso is a restauranteur with an expanding empire on the rise.
Growing up food was ubiquitous in Antonia Lofaso’s life. From a family with a zeal for cooking to working side jobs in the industry, being in restaurants came naturally. However, making a career from her passion didn’t seem logical. It wasn’t until meeting her late husband, Heavy D, that working as a chef transformed into a reality.
It took ten years of skill development, including graduation from the French Culinary Institute, before Lofaso became an executive chef at SBE’s restaurant, Foxtail, (now closed). At the time, Lofaso admits, she didn’t know what she was doing and constantly questioned whether people would gravitate towards her opinion on food.
“Opening a restaurant is about a feeling. There’s a reason restauranteurs tend to be some of the most eccentric people you’ll meet in your life. We’re weird and crazy! There’s no real formula to it. You either have it or you don’t.”
While approaching a dish, Lofaso contemplates the message she wants to convey. She is a storyteller that utilizes ingredients rather than words and plates instead of books.
Black Market Liquor Bar, located in L.A.’s Studio City, reads a menu of things to crave; BBQ short ribs, spicy Korean chicken wings, meatballs, dill potato chips, deep fried fluffer-nutter, amongst more.

“I think menus tell a story and through that story there’s an experience… It should be delicious, it should be well executed and it should be what people crave.”

Lofaso moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was eleven years old but her Long Island roots have influenced her culinary creations with the opening of her American Italian restaurant Scopa in Los Angeles.
Scopa Italian Roots, a restaurant about Italian heritage, reveals orders such as cold seafood salad, rice ball, meatball hero, stuffed shells and spumoni. Each mouthful reminiscent of her childhood. Lofaso recalls, from a prior work experience, her father once referring to a plate as ‘cold cuts.’ At the time she took it offensively.
“In L.A. no one knows what cold cuts are, they say cured meats or charcuterie, the fancier end of it.” But over time she has come to embrace the terminology for the memory it evokes. “The name is what bred the concept [of Scopa]. People will think it’s funny or it’s a story that servers get to explain to customers about where I grew up.”


Lofaso, like many who grew up in the Long Island suburbs, recalls the mixed American-Italian culture that is a rarity to find elsewhere. The local deli, the Italian restaurant on the corner, the large plates of antipasti that seemingly could feed a small village.
“I still have that memory, that feeling, that smell.” she expresses the uniqueness of where she grew up.

“What I miss about Long Island is the sense of community. Everywhere you go and everywhere you live…they’re very loyal to one another, you take care of each other.”

Lofaso success wasn’t instant, despite her televised appearances on shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and top chef, and experience working at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. After her executive chef position at Foxtail closed within the year she fell into a state of depression, questioning her career path. Lee Hefter, her mentor which she gained through Wolfgang Puck, encouraged her to keep pushing forward.
“He’d say, ‘Antonia, restaurants open and restaurants close. Get over it.’ It’s so interesting how everything shifts…My biggest thing is about the recovery. Always. There’s more failure, and I’ve learned more through my failure than my success.”
On the rise as a restauranteur, 2017 is the year for her new line of cook wear, Chefletics. With a website launch in 2016, Chefletics was inspired by the streets of L.A. and Lofaso’s love for Crossfit to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to Chefdry, the technology behind the brand, she has created a line resembling athletic wear. “That’s what chef’s were already buying to wear in the kitchen, so I just made something that was made for chefs.”
In a single word, Chef Antonia Lofaso would describe herself as consistent. As a tasteful storyteller, mother and businesswoman.

A Joyful Gathering

A meal is much more than food on a plate, it’s an experience of the senses. The tastes of a rich wine, the tantalizing aroma of freshly prepared ingredients, the visually distinct surroundings, the chatter of good company and the satisfying feeling of placing your hands on your stomach after the final bite. Mmmmmm!


Jody LoMenzo understands this concept as she curates a dining experience of delicious detail. Her company, A Joyful Gathering, brings people together over individually crafted plates of food.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in bringing people together around a table. Enjoying a meal, enjoying the company, and creating a joyful gathering,” LoMenzo explained how she came up with the name of her latest business venture.

Upon moving to Virginia 28 years ago LoMenzo, a noted media professional, started to turn a hobby into a side business. With a full-time career and raising a daughter, preparing dinner for others in peoples personal homes became a creative outlet that was well received.


“Friends asked me to cook and to do their parties. I love entertaining, it’s a natural passion,” LoMenzo reminisced about growing up in Bellmore, a town on the south shore of Nassau County, with a family that had a love for food and Sunday dinners. “It’s my way of giving people an opportunity to take a break, breathe the air, sip the wine.”

Now, she has returned to her home grown roots on Long Island to serve the Hamptons community effortless entertaining directly in their homes.

“I’m not a caterer in the sense I don’t do large scale, mass produced food. I am making food prepared to the menu, to the host’s wishes with my suggestions,” LoMenzo stated.

The relaxed lifestyle of the Hamptons, whether it’s full time or a weekend escape, brings to mind a sense of serenity. Like anywhere else, the idea of unpacking groceries and entertaining guests after a long work day brings additional stress. Between the deer, the darkness and the drinks, driving after an evening out can become treacherous. A Joyful Gathering fixes all of these issues in the most splendid way.

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LoMenzo buys the groceries, cooks, serves and cleans, all directly in a clients home, a full circle service. She enjoys interacting with guests by making an appetizer or dessert together. She even offers cooking classes!


“One time I brought homemade pastry and the group of people helped peel, slice and cut apples into bowls with cinnamon and sugar, flour and spices. Groups of two paired off to make their own apple tarts for dessert. It was interesting the different shapes and sizes, it even turned into a funny competition.”

More than just personalized cooking, A Joyful Gathering includes an option for wine pairings. LoMenzo works with local wine merchants to taste the local grapes that compliment her dishes. She is also offering her services as an auction item at fund raising events. Her recent auction at Southampton Animal Shelter’s Spay-ghetti Dinner was a raving success!

Jody LoMenzo with me at Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Spay-ghetti Dinner on 2/23

Preparing food is an art form of the senses. However you choose to “come to the table and break bread” let it be ‘a joyful gathering.’ Cheers!

A Joyful Gathering is available solely on the east end right now, primarily on the South Fork. Brunch and dinner services are competitive to a restaurant, approximately $30-$50 a person depending on the ingredients used. In efforts to maximize the experience, buffet services are offered for 20 people or less, sit down meals for 10, and food and wine pairings a capacity of 12. All bookings must be made 10 days in advance.

Email Jody for more at

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