AUTHOR: Alexandra Chaden, Segment Producer, The Mind of a Chef
CHEF: APRIL BLOOMFIELD
As an avid Italophile, I jumped at the chance to work on an episode of television entirely devoted to my culinary destination of choice.
But I didn’t just do it for me — it made creative sense, of course, considering the show’s hostess extraordinaire honed her culinary skills at the River Café, London’s preeminent Italian restaurant. And it didn’t hurt that April was now about to open an Italian restaurant of her own, Tosca Café, in San Francisco. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to study a cuisine that had influenced, inspired, and motivated April over the years. But mostly it was an excuse to eat handcrafted pasta and salami for the sake of our ‘art.’
While we never made it to Italy, we found that there was plenty of Italy right here in the States. We visited the matriarch of Italian cookery in America, the incomparable and accomplished Marcella Hazan, who agreed to cook with us on camera. She and her husband Victor’s Florida condominium transported us to Trieste, complete with fresh herbs on the terrace and the aroma of white wine-soaked veal shank.
The craftsmanship of Chris Cosentino’s salumi — sausages, salamis, and whole muscles hand-seasoned, stuffed, tied, and aged in an unassuming storefront in Oakland — reeked of the best meat funk possible. And watching April cook a simple yet labor-intensive fresh pasta for her mentor, Ruth Rogers, in London made a trip to Italy unnecessary altogether.
April cooked Marcella Hazan’s Roasted Veal Shank with the master herself. The discerning diner will realize that the real prize is not the spoon-tender leg meat, but rather the marrow that roasts inside. April was obsessed with these beautiful silver spoons Marcella had, used specifically for scraping the marrow out of shank bones. They make clean work of an otherwise messy endeavor.
April and Chris Cosentino finally sample some of his salumi at Boccalone. Chris makes something called “spreadable salami,” which is exactly what it sounds like — an encased salami that has enough fat and moisture to be spread when opened. In solidarity (and because we had to follow health codes), we all sported those super cool lab coats and hairnets.
A girl and some cured meats. April is always a student of food but looks exceptionally pensive and serene here — ironic since there were A LOT of sausage jokes that day…
There was a serious lovefest between these two — April had the opportunity to cook for one of her childhood heroes. Marcella’s apartment smelled like Italy, a perfect combination of mildly acrid cigarette smoke and roasting meat. Even at nearly 90 she owned that kitchen. Although she did make April do most of the dirty work, and she served as consigliere.
Totally unplanned #twinsies, rocking the blue gingham button-downs. This was immediately after they texted Fergus Henderson — the man who introduced them.
April loves food and always wants it to look and taste juuuust right. Here she plays food stylist for our DP, Ethan, at San Francisco’s Tusk restaurant. We’re grabbing a beauty shot of all the ingredients for April’s hand-stuffed tortelloni with ricotta cheese. In just a few simple steps, these humble ingredients will become inappropriately delicious (the ooh-ing, aah-ing, and moan-ing that ensued among the crew while eating this dish was most definitely R-rated).
DP Jeremy and April are both perfectionists. It’s a trait that serves them well. Here he’s capturing the ‘perfect’ shot of April’s ‘perfect’ Walnut Tagliatelle.
Light lunch. Most people ask if I eat well while making food TV. The answer is often no — I tend to be stressed or running around or making sure the crew is fed or planning for the next day’s shoot. But I can say with complete conviction that I gained about 10 lbs while filming this show.
April stepped outside Marcella’s condo to grab some fresh sage. Fried up, it was the perfect accompaniment to her gnudi (although Marcella schooled her and suggested it might be better raw and sprinkled over the top). If you squint your eyes and try really hard, it almost looks like a balcony garden in Rome, right?
After the cooking and feasting on ricotta gnudi and a veal shank the size of a small commonwealth, the sunset outside Marcella’s condo was too gorgeous to waste. We did a little interview with April in a contemplative state to make the most of the light. But mostly it was an excuse for us to wiggle our toes in the sand after a long day.