April Bloomfield emerged from obscurity in the fall of 2005 when her small and casual West Village gastropub, The Spotted Pig, received a highly cherished -- and very surprising -- Michelin star in the first Michelin Guide to New York City restaurants. In 2007, Food & Wine magazine named her one of the best new chefs of the year, saying that her menu "infuses modest British dishes with spirit and sophistication."
Bloomfield, who was 31 when she garnered the Michelin honor, had been born in Birmingham, England, studied at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies and had previously worked at Kensington Place, Bibendum and River Café in London; Roscoff, a one-star Michelin restaurant in Belfast, Ireland; and the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
She told Food & Wine that she hadn't planned on being a chef -- she had hoped to be a police officer but filed her application for cadet school too late. Her sisters were at cooking school, so when her mother asked what she was going to do, she replied, "I'll cook." Her first major kitchen job was in the roast section at the Holiday Inn restaurant in Birmingham.
The Spotted Pig, which is co-owned by Bloomfield (who is the executive chef) and Ken Friedman, and in which Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich were early investors, essentially has a no-reservations policy and is known for its long waits, especially at prime dining times.
Reviewing the restaurant in 2004, before its Michelin fame&mdashbut after it had already become a popular New York phenomenon&mdashEric Asimov of The New York Times praised its "winning confluence of casual yet imaginative food served in an easygoing, almost rustic atmosphere, where worn-velvet banquettes are strewn with pillows and pig paraphernalia adorn the walls." He praised Bloomfield's gnudi, "a feathery light gnocchi made with sheep's milk ricotta, requiring no more than a little melted butter and Parmesan, accented with pungent crisp sage leaves."
More recently, in 2006, Frank Bruni of The New York Times, giving the restaurant one star, was more mixed in his assessment. "The Spotted Pig may well be Manhattan's most unforgiving, uncomfortable trough, the gastropub as gastromelee," he wrote. "Almost immediately after it opened in March 2004 and began serving its sometimes heroically satisfying combination of English and Italian cooking, the throngs started to descend, and they have never stopped." He agreed that the gnudi are fantastic and that "on the tables there is merit aplenty," but added, "Like so much in life, the Pig proves contradictory truths: that New Yorkers are fools, willing to endure any manner of nonsense to run with the pack, and that New Yorkers are sages, able to divine and embrace genuine merit in the middle of bedlam."
In November 2008 Bloomfield and Sara Ochs opened The John Dory, a seafood restaurant at 10th Avenue and 16th Street in Manhattan. It unfortunately closed nine months later, but The Spotted Pig remains a West Village icon.