April Bloomfield’s “anal rustic” food

The New Yorker has a great profile of April Bloomfield, the celebrated and single-minded chef behind both Breslin and The Spotted Pig.

Bloomfield’s seemingly unfussy food has been fussed over a great deal. “Her Greek salad almost ruined my life,” Katharine Marsh, a cook at the Breslin, said. “One summer, I had to get to work three hours early every day and go through hundreds of tomatoes to find the perfect ones. She wanted every salad to have perfect variety of color, and each color tomato cut on a different angle, to give height and depth on the plate.” Her cooks have come up with a name for her style of cooking: “anal rustic.”

Bloomfield’s talent lies in execution, not experimentation. The most appalling thing she has ever seen in a restaurant was a Caesar salad stuffed into a hole hollowed in a country loaf. Because her food is not fancy, it has to be perfect, like a pair of jeans. J. J. Goode, who is helping her write a cookbook—“A Girl and Her Pig” is the working title—told me, “When April’s making a salad that has nuts or capers or whatever in it, she’s always saying that she wants there to be just enough so that you don’t have to try too hard to find one but not so many that you’re not excited when you come across one.” Bloomfield loves a broken hard-boiled egg, but not a sliced one. She treats herbs as if they were truffles. “Food’s delicate,” Bloomfield said, at the Breslin, picking through a bundle of black mint. Her thumb and forefinger formed a little pincer, which she wielded with a crablike economy of motion. “You have to handle it with finesse. You can’t just be a big ogre.”

In a blind taste test, you could identify Bloomfield’s food by the blasts of salt and lemon. It is not for the faint of palate. “ ‘Copious’ is a word I like to use when buttering my potatoes,” she told me. But in the kitchen she is as composed as her cooking is brazen. “There’s not too much ‘you wanker’ this or ‘you fucking idiot,’ ” she said. “It’s a waste of time.” Still, she projects such quiet disdain for sloppiness that “half-a-job Bob”—her biggest insult—stings as much as any bleepable tirade. If David Chang’s band of renegades are the Red Sox of the New York restaurant world, Bloomfield’s cooks are the Yankees, square and conscientious. When I asked her what kind of people she likes to hire, she replied, “Nobody weird. Nobody with dreadlocks.” She paused a minute, and added, “Well, no white guys with dreadlocks.” Her cooks wear black pants and black shoes. “People with chile peppers on their chef pants shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen,” she said. When Bloomfield peels a carrot, she holds it out in the palm of her hand, like sheet music. Her posture is as correct, and her expression as intent, as that of a girl about to play “Chopsticks” in a piano recital.

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