Chef April Bloomfield recently won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City, and currently dominates New York’s food scene with four highly-acclaimed local restaurants – The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, The John Dory Oyster Bar, and of course, Salvation Taco.
Your first few restaurants are reminiscent of London pubs. What was the inspiration for Salvation Taco?
I’m always looking for a challenge and I wanted to do something different and out of the gastropub box. I worked with my dear friend Roberto Santibañez (of Fonda Cocina) to create a bright and vibrant menu, while he brought the Mexican foundation. I often draw inspiration from the design and atmosphere of a space. The food on the plate needs to fit with the restaurant’s overall aesthetic.
You’ve come a long way in your career, but how did you get your start in the kitchen?
I originally wanted to be a cop, but I didn’t get in to the academy. At 16, I went to culinary school and began working at a Holiday Inn full time. When the opportunity arose to open a pub in NYC, I scrapped my plans and went into it with an open mind. I made the conscious decision not to do pub food and used my training to make the food worthy of a restaurant, not just a pub. Who doesn’t want both great drinks and great food?
If you could cook a meal, for yourself any 3-5 people, past or present, who would they be and what would you make them?
I’d love to sit down with the Dalai Lama, but I’d have to keep it Vegan. It would be a very spiritual and inspirational experience. Definitely, Kate Bush. She’s my favorite singer, I love her music, and she’s veggie as well! I would probably make her some cauliflower tacos.
The cauliflower tacos are a miracle…
I’d also love to cook for Freud and Carl Jung. I would make them something nice and hearty, maybe pork belly, braised cabbage, and juniper. [April asks her staff the same question. None of them would ever want to cook for a chef].
Do you have a favorite culinary destination?
Anywhere with a strong food culture, but as cliché as it sounds, I love everything. Vietnam and Thailand are at the top of my list of places I need to go.
Who challenges you? Where does your inspiration come from?
A lot of my pushing and motivation comes from within myself, but I draw inspiration from all over; traveling, cook books, eating out, meeting and working with different chefs. When I have a new idea for a dish the first thing I do is write it down, and I try to get in the kitchen and start cooking right away. I usually get big ideas in the morning because I think better when I’m hungry. I rarely eat breakfast.
These days with social media, everyone’s a food critic. Do you think it’s a blessing or a curse?
I actually manage my Instagram by myself (@AprilBloomfield). I’m pretty tuned in, and I appreciate what people have to say about my restaurants. It’s negative if it ends up being a big bitch-fest, but I pick and choose what I listen to and what I believe.
Is there anyone in the culinary world you would love to work with?
Hard question. Designers and chefs both inspire me. But to be specific, I’d love to do something with Daniel Humm (of the Nomad).
If you chose to escape the industry, what would you be doing?
Wow. Maybe a running a farm in Upstate NY, or in England, with my feet deep in pig shit.
Cooking up some comfort food perhaps. Speaking of which, what is your comfort food?
Anything mashed, roasted, or hearty; lots of stews. Roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. If I a need big hug, that’s what I go for.
Is there anyone in NYC that makes authentic English food?
What are your plans to continue culinary world domination?
Keep my head down, knuckle down and keep everything running smoothly. My cookbook, coming out April 21st, is a big focus currently. I do a lot of running around between my kitchens. It’s very important to connect with the staff and see what’s going on, taste everything. I can’t just provide inspiration for one restaurant. Davri is the chef here, he does the day-to-day stuff in the kitchen, but I drop in all the time.
Davri: Yeah, she keeps everyone on their toes, which is definitely good.
Who do you think makes the best cheeseburger in NYC?
That’s a really big topic these days. You know I kind of like 5 Guys cheeseburgers. I really love Shake Shack and I love the chicken burger at Nomad.
Do you have three favorite ingredients?
Chili, salt, and lemon…and olive oil. Got to have good olive oil.
Favorite hot sauce?
Waterfront Ale House makes an in-house habanero hot sauce that I love.
Okay, we need to take some pictures together…
Are we going to do a little selfie?