CHARLESTON CELEBRATES CHEF APRIL BLOOMFIELD’S NEW BOOK
“What should my opener be?” I quietly, yet urgently, asked TLP photographer, Maggie Franks. Truly, I was at an utter loss as to what to say to one of New York’s most successful young chefs, and I am not too proud to admit I was intimidated at the thought of trying to engage Chef April Bloomfield of the wildly popular (and impossible-to-get-into) The Spotted Pig, as well as The Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar, in meaningful conversation. Consequently, all my hand wringing and worrying were unnecessary: she gracefully approached Maggie and me with a hand out and an easygoing “Hi, I’m April.”
This all transpired at an intimate party honoring Bloomfield and her new cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, at the Heirloom Book Company in Charleston, South Carolina. Chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s spent Saturday with Chef Bloomfield spit-roasting a lamb and creating a couple of sides to accompany this massive amount of meat. Roasted red peppers and tomatoes along with a chickpea, lentil, and feta salad were served, and both dishes complemented the ridiculously tender meat exquisitely. McCrady’s offered two wines and The Gin Joint was slinging the cocktails: one, a deceptively strong summer Negroni, and the other, a delightfully fizzy bourbon and ginger concoction. This small recap is just to say that the food was excellent. But, with two extraordinarily talented young chefs who are each in their own way reshaping how we experience food and the entire act of eating, did you really expect anything else?
What was truly outstanding to me was the conversation. After Chef Bloomfield humbly introduced herself, we dove right into a genuine chat. Our talk touched on topics such as places she had visited in Charleston (we decided that Two Boroughs Larder could be on our menu nearly any day of the week) and our shared love of nonfiction—Biography channel for her, memoirs for me, among others. It was so normal. I couldn’t believe how approachable and easy to talk to she was. I was prepared to be star-struck and even a bit moony. Rather, I was lucky enough to simply enjoy easy conversation with another partygoer. Who just happened to be the acclaimed guest of honor.
Her cookbook is merely an extension of the person I briefly met. Even though we only spoke for thirty minutes, I can tell this book is no ghostwriter situation. Her dialogue is fresh and candid and blessedly down-to-earth. One of my favorite parts is in her introduction where she sincerely requests that readers refrain from loosely following her recipes and “please try it my way.” As one who often deviates from recipes, or more likely, mashes a whole lot of recipes together into one, this was like an “A-ha” moment. I thought, Yes, she’s put so much time into this book the least I can do is simply follow her steps. I can’t think of many other instances where I’ve seen such straightforward direction as that. And it’s an honest request. One I feel no trepidation in following.
Skimming through A Girl and Her Pig, I can tell it’s one of those cookbooks I’ll keep around forever. It’s neither trendy nor stuffy. It’s not a big book on how to boil water either. Some of the recipes will push you. They are long and descriptive, most with fascinatingly short ingredient lists. Bloomfield’s book is one to linger over and write in the margins and get a little messy—it’s blissfully approachable, much like its author.