Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers in Food: # 43, April Bloomfield

April Bloomfield was born in Birmingham, England in 1974. Her mother painted ornate candy dishes for Halcyon Days and her stepfather was an engineer. This was not a foodie family. Her mother's cooking left a lot to be desired, but April remembers some of her grandmother's dishes with fondness.

She was giving some thought to becoming a policewoman, but got sidetracked when she saw her sister in chef's whites. "Maybe I could give cooking a go, she thought. But when I walked into college, and saw the kitchens and smelt the spices, I knew I would give it 110%. I was just blown away."

Her first job was at a Holiday Inn, followed by several other restaurants while she learned her craft. At one point, she worked at Bibendum and still speaks with reverence of Simon Hopkinson, who was chef there. 

But eventually April wanted to spread her wings and her dream was a job at the River Cafe. She called a friend who worked there and:  "They told me to come in, and I loved it from the moment I tasted the food. It was this pasta… I had to peel these walnuts. I'd never seen a wet walnut. My fingers were burning, but I was so happy. We made a sauce from the walnuts, some bread, the water I'd blanched them in, some pesto and some spicy oil. Tossed it into some tagliatelle. When I tasted it, my palate moved to a higher consciousness. I actually thought: what have I been doing for the last 10 years? I was so worried I wasn't good enough to get a job there."

In the meantime, in NYC, Ken Friedman, who'd been in the music industry for 25 years began a new career. His friends suggested Mr. Friedman open a restaurant, because he had always been a foodie. Mr. Friedman ran the idea by Mario Batali, who agreed to help. So he and Mario Batali began searching for a chef. Jamie Oliver was their choice. Batali, a pal of his, and Friedman took him out for the evening. According to Batali, Oliver turned them down but suggested they meet with a young British sous chef at his old employer, the River Cafe. Her name was April Bloomfield.

Bloomfield flew out to New York, which she had never visited before, for an interview. A little to her surprise, this consisted of a 10-hour marathon during which she and Batali and Friedman ate at some of the city's best known restaurants. “Mario said, ‘Look at her arms. They’re all burnt, which means she has no fear. Plus, she has a sense of humor,’” recalled Mr. Friedman.

Bloomfield handed in her notice, and moved to the US, where she spent the summer working at Alice Waters's restaurant, Chez Panisse, to become familiar with American ingredients. Then she headed to New York where she and Friedman opened their gastropub, the Spotted Pig, in 2004. The menu was meaty, and rather British. She and Ken did not agree right away about what kind of food they would serve. "He wanted to do tofu hot dogs. I was very concerned. I sent him an email telling him what I was most passionate about, and I ended it by saying: look, I might not be the right chef for you." Ken promptly backed off, and has left her alone ever since. He deals only with front of house, leaving April, who is emphatically not a schmoozer, to get on with her work. This suits them both. 

Friedman says: New Yorkers didn’t quite know what to make of it. Was it a bar with good food? A restaurant that was fun?
In any case, it was an immediate hit.

April Bloomfield is one busy woman: not only head chef at The Spotted Pig, but at the wildly popular Breslin and the new John Dory, Vol II. The latter two eateries flank Ace Hotel New York and are an integral part of the nightlife here. The Spotted Pig and The Breslin both received coveted Michelin Stars this year. 
She also has a book coming out this month.


No problem choosing a recipe this week! I've read about this pie and those divine ingredients. What's not to love about dulce de leche and bananas? 

Banoffee Pie

Recipe by Chef April Bloomfield 

2 14-oz. cans condensed milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tbs. confectioner’s sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
8 to 10 bananas
2 cups heavy cream
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
3 tbs. grated bittersweet chocolate

Place the unopened cans of condensed milk in a saucepan, and cover with water. Boil for 4 hours, checking the water level occasionally to ensure the cans remain submerged. Remove the cans, and allow to cool overnight.

Sift the flour into a bowl; add butter, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg yolks, and knead until the egg is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Cut the dough into 2 or 3 large pieces. Grate the dough on a large-tooth box grater set over the base of an 11-inch tart pan, and press it evenly around the base, then the sides. The dough should be a little less than 1/4 inch thick on the base and 1/2 inch thick on the sides. Prick the bottom with a fork, and then freeze for 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pie for 15 minutes or until brown all over. Allow the pie shell to cool. 

Peel and thinly slice the bananas on the bias. Arrange half of the bananas in concentric circles, starting from the outside and working your way to the center. Open the chilled cans and gently dollop the caramelized condensed milk onto the bananas, spreading it evenly. Follow with another layer of bananas. Cover the tart with a tight layer of plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. 

While the pie is chilling, whisk together the cream, vanilla seeds, and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Remove the pie from the fridge, and spread the whipped cream on top, completely covering the bananas. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the pie, and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Join Mary from 
One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.


  1. I enjoyed "meeting" April. Then, to scroll down and find this pie--heaven!!


  2. I love to read about a chef's background, it has a way of bringing even more flavour to their recipes. :)

    As for your banoffee pie...wow!! The dulce de leche alone is enough to entice my sweet tooth.

  3. I have read about Banoffee Pie which seems to originate in Briain. One of those recipes that is on my list of things to try.

  4. So irresistible! A great recipe. I'm going to make something very similar this weekend.



  5. Enjoyed reading about April Bloomfield, I've heard of the Spotted Pig. That pie looks fantastic, I'd love to try a nice big slice.

  6. Yummy! I've never made or eaten Banofee Pie...but I always say "MMMMMM" when I see it. One of these days I'll make it - it looks amazing. Wonderful write-up =)

  7. Oh, I'm drooling. Gads. I might have to try that.

  8. What a lovely story to share with and the pie too looks terrific. Wish I can have some right now. Slurppp...
    Hope you're having a great day, Barbara. Enjoy!

  9. The pie look absolutely amazing Barbara.
    Dear I drooling with dulce de leche, always!!zzz

  10. Love the photo on the front of the book, I will buy it just for that!



  11. You did such a lovely job with April's background - I ave been so sidetracked and rushed lately - but your was a grand read. Loving that pie - oh my - what's not to like?

  12. What an interesting story! The pie looks divine.

  13. Yummy pie. you picked a great recipe to showcase. Thanks for sharing with us.

  14. What an amazing looking pie! I would love to have a piece right now! Simply beautiful! And a lovely post!

  15. I've heard of this pie, but didn't realize it contained dulce de leche. Where have I been? I must have it now, so bookmarked.

  16. this is probably my favorite thing to come from across the pond, food-wise, anyway. :)

  17. Never heard of this pie, but it sounds delicious - reminds me of banana cream.

  18. What a fun read and delicious looking pie! I've bookmarked it to try since I love dulce de leche.

  19. Ooh, I am all over that recipe. Looks fabulous. Decadent. Love the photograph of April on the cover of her forthcoming book. Great post, Barbara.

  20. Her job interview sounds spectacular! I wish that I'd had one like that, or better yet, was on the interviewing panel and had to hire multiple people over a period of time. So much fun eating out!

  21. Oh. My. Stars. This looks sooooooo goooooood. I think I gained 5 pounds just reading the recipe!



Related Posts with Thumbnails