I have been addicted to cop shows ever since I was a kid watching Hill Street Blues and Simon and Simon. Actually, Simon and Simon were private eye brothers, not cops, but they would get hauled into the station and told off by Downtown Brown in every episode, so there was a cop element to it. I pretended Jameson Parker, who played AJ Simon, was my husband for most of the fifth grade. I even gave my Cabbage Patch Kid his surname. These days, my crime addiction includes Luther, The Wire, and Law & Order SVU, but when I found out that one of my culinary idols, April Bloomfield, was also a fan, I got in touch.
It turns out she's not only a fan, but spent her formative years planning a career in the police force before her fate of becoming one of the most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs in America took over. The police station's loss was the dining public's gain. Since she and her business partner, Ken Friedman, recently became involved in Toronto's newly opened Blackbird Bakery, I caught up with her to talk about those early cop car aspirations, her favorite cop shows, and whether or not she even likes doughnuts.
MUNCHIES: You had originally planned to become a police officer before you ended up becoming a chef. How seriously were you considering it and why did you want to be a cop? April: There are a few instances that stand out in my mind. One was at the age of around ten or eleven, when I was behind my school's playground gates. I saw a man steal a handbag from an old woman and I remember feeling the urge to help her, but also feeling helpless because I was behind the school gates watching her plead for help. Most of all, the concept of community and my urge to help people were my primary motivations for wanting to be a cop. I was very seriously considering it—I applied and didn't get in. So I fell back on cooking.
Was there a certain branch of policing that interested you? SVU, detective work…? I wanted to be a beat cop and chase criminals and help people. Crime prevention seemed exciting to me.
The stereotype in North America is that cops love doughnuts. Is the same true in England? I am not positive there are any stereotypes about the eating habits of cops in England besides what I saw on television, which was mostly smoking and boozing. However, I do recall writing a story for school around the age of 14 about American cops. I called it something along the lines of "It's a Jungle Out There." In the story, the cops take a break and eat doughnuts and Twinkies. I remember dying to try a Twinkie. In 1993, I visited the US and hunted a Twinkie down and had my first bite. I was so disappointed and I spit it out. I do love doughnuts though…particularly glazed Krispy Kremes.
Do you still think you'd like to be a cop? At one point, I did try again. It was right before working at River Café. They sent me back a transport police application, which in my mind was not very exciting at all. I took that as a sign that maybe I shouldn't apply. I remember thinking, Maybe I am meant to cook.
I'm a cop show fanatic, do you have any favorites? Southland is my absolute favorite. I still don't understand why it was cancelled. Law & Order is my hotel room go-to. I have not seen The Wire, but I have heard so many great things about it. I'm looking forward to diving in someday.
After the transport police offer, you went to work at the River Café, did your experience there cement things for you career wise? When I started at River Café, I realized that it was exactly the food that I was meant to cook. I felt instantly connected and I guess when that happened, I never looked back. Things really took off.
**It's no secret you're a celebrated chef and restaurateur in New York and San Francisco. You and Ken are even involved in *Blackbird Bakery* here in Toronto that just opened last week. What's going on with that?** Simon Blackwell has been a close friend for the past decade. Actually we once shared a flat. He asked us to be involved in his bakery and I believe in him, so Ken and I took a trip out to Toronto. I was able to spend the weekend making bread with him and meeting some of his accounts. We love Toronto. We will find any excuse to go.