Chef April Bloomfield on A Girl and Her Pig

First aired on Q (27/04/12)

april_bloomfield-200.jpgWhen it comes to cuisine, England's reputation has historically been less than sterling. In fact, traditional English food, often stereotyped as being bland and boring, has been the butt of many jokes in the past decade.

Chef April Bloomfield, who hails from Birmingham, England, is a proud Brit but thinks there's a grain of a truth in the matter.

"Is [British food] worst in the world? I'm not quite sure, but there's some pretty bad English cooks out there," she told Q host Jian Ghomeshi during a recent interview.

Bloomfield, in case you're wondering, isn't one of those bad cooks. She's quite good. The 38-year-old is the chef and co-owner of three New York City hotspots -- The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory -- and is popularly credited with leading the gastro pub trend in North America over the last few years. Her specialty is doing classic comfort fare her way, with quality ingredients, precision and copious flavour, usually with a British or Italian twist.

"I just think people are ready for a place you can dine that's comfortable and relaxed and that you can take a group of friend and have a great time and just eat great food, chat, drink great wine, great cask beers, and just leave feeling fulfilled and your pocket's not so empty from spending so much money on a fine-dining restaurant."

She's got a new cookbook out now entitled A Girl and Her Pig, which chronicles her ascent from a working-class English girl who didn't dream of becoming a famous chef with two Michelin stars. She didn't grow up in a particularly foodie family, mostly eating cheese sandwiches and steaks that usually looked a bit "grey."

"My grandmother was the best cook of the family, my mom wasn't so much. But basically I didn't get into my chosen profession, which was to join the police force, so I needed something to fall back on."

She worked her way up from hotel kitchens to fine restaurants, including a four-year stint at the prestigious River Café in London, where celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also cut their teeth. Since moving to New York to start her own restaurants, she's served up burgers to the likes of Jay-Z and Kobe Bryant, but her aim has never been to cater to stars. It's been to share her love of good food with anybody who's interested, no matter how much money they have. Bloomfield says that celebrity chef craze of the past decade has definitely helped to spread the message that fine cuisine isn't just for the suit-and-tie crowd.

"I think that's definitely kind of opening people's eyes and showing them that there's something better out there."

"My Chicken Adobo"

This recipe is from April Bloomfield's new cookbook A Girl and Her Pig.


1/4 cup canola oil
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs, cut through the bone into 2-inch pieces (you can have your butcher do this)
2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1/2 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup thinly sliced skin-on ginger
10 whole black peppercorns
4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large Dutch-oven over high heat until it begins to smoke. Working in batches, add chicken, skin-side down, to pot and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to plate and repeat process with remaining chicken.

Add garlic, onion, ginger, peppercorns, and bay leaves to Dutch-oven; cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Return chicken to Dutch-oven along with vinegar and soy sauce. Increase heat and bring liquid to a boil, stirring and scraping brown bits from bottom of the pan.

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and easily pulls away from the bone, about 45 minutes. Serve.