By Alicia Bynum The Upper East Side just became a little crunchier. Fernanda Capobianco recently opened Vegan Divas Bakery at 1437 First Ave. and 75th Street featuring items that are baked with love. "Our goal is to satisfy your taste buds by using healthy and fresh ingredients," she said. Capobianco said that the time is right for more health-conscious choices in the neighborhood since most of the vegan restaurants and bakeries are below 14th Street. From an early age, Capobianco said she didn't like the normal carnivorous Brazilian diet in her native country. After her father died from diabetes, she decided to become vegan. Capobianco, who is married to renowned pastry chef François Payard, said vegan cooking is all about using ingredients that are made without harming animals. "Giving individuals the option to choose products that do not harm animals and do not cause harm to their own bodies is what we aim for here," she said. Before launching her bakery, Capobianco was a journalist as well as manager and owner of the Payard restaurant and pastry shop in Rio de Janeiro. Felipe Saint-Martin, Capobianco's Brazilian cousin, manages the shop on the Upper East Side. Saint-Martin has a background as a chef, working as head cook at Gramercy Tavern as well as head chef in the pasta department at Eataly. She said that the initial reaction from Upper East Siders to vegan cooking was one of suspicion and presumption that they wouldn't like it. "They wouldn't even take samples," Capobianco said. But after inducing the locals to try the tasty treats, they've developed a regular clientele. Dishes range from simple to eclectic; sweet treats such as chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts and muffins, and cakes of all varieties as well as various mousses have become best sellers. Chocolate cake is the most popular dish. Capobianco's favorite is the tofu-based ginger-vanilla ice cream. "Baking is a science-everything has to be precise. You mess up one thing, no matter how minuscule it is, and the whole recipe can get messed up," she said. For more information, visit VeganDivasNYC.com.
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