Had April Bloomfield not missed a crucial deadline in her early search for a career, today she might be writing tickets in the U.K. instead of rocking some of the hottest grub on the New York dining scene.
The acclaimed chef behind Manhattan's The Spotted Pig and, now, The Breslin once dreamed of joining the police force in her native Birmingham, England.
In other words, she wanted to be a cop.
"I didn't want to ever cook," Bloomfield said in recent interview at The Breslin, which occupies an oak-heavy, beautifully dusky space in the Ace Hotel on 29th St. "My two sisters were always cooking. I wanted to be in the police force, but I didn't get in because I just so happened to procrastinate a bit, and I hadn't gotten my application in at the right time. ... So I kinda left it too late and my mom kinda sat me down and was like, 'What are you gonna do?'"
The answer, said Bloomfield, was literally right before her eyes.
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"I saw my sister walk past, and she had her chef whites on, and I kinda looked at her and was like, 'Maybe I'll just give cooking a go,' just to tide me over until I could, you know, reapply for the police force. I went a couple of weeks later to turn up to the college that my sisters were going to at the time, because they were both there. And I fell in love with it."
When Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman opened The Spotted Pig, New York City's first gastro-pub, in February 2004, it was as if the West Village food gods had fulfilled a culinary yearning the dining classes didn't even realize they felt. With its pub-inflected seasonal British and Italian menu, the restaurant soon had patrons jamming Greenwich and 11th Streets and enduring Odyssey-style waits for a table in the back and a couple hours in gastronomic paradise. That first year it grabbed a Michelin star, which it has kept for five consecutive years.
It was a breakthrough for Bloomfield, but it wasn't a bolt from the blue. The Spotted Pig gig came after a number of standout apprentice roles, beginning with cook positions in various kitchens throughout London and Northern Ireland. Bloomfield did a turn at London's renowned River Cafe, under the guidance of Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, and another at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.
Bloomfield and Friedman are back at it with The Breslin, which opened in October 2009. Bloomfield designed the menu to spotlight a variety of meaty dishes, like terrines and sausages. Early crowds and rave reviews make it look like the duo will succeed at repeating -- or, rather, updating, elaborating and expanding on -- The Spotted Pig trick.
Bloomfield said her desire to cook, and cook more, and better, always came naturally.
"I don't think I really pushed myself into [cooking]," she said. "Well, obviously I did, because I had to make a decision, but I just found it really natural because I really wanted to give it 110 percent. You know, it wasn't anything that was ever blasé. I made a decision and I wanted to stick to it and I just really, really enjoyed it. I ended up doing it a second year, and you know it was an amazing time and I learned so much."
It took awhile before she began to think she was actually any good at cooking, however.