Do Chef-in-Residence April Bloomfield on her experience at Mayflower Inn & Spa
When one door closes, another one usually blows wide open. And that’s exactly how Chef April Bloomfield ended up the current chef-in-residence at Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection. After her beloved Manhattan gastropub The Breslin closed down last March per COVID protocol, the British-born chef found herself in a position she hadn’t been in for nearly 30 years. “I’ve been working solidly since I was 16, so of course I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was going stir crazy and feeling a bit restless,” she says. “So when I got the offer I was in the right place to start spreading my wings.”
After decades spent climbing her way to the top of the chef pack in New York and London, Bloomfield decamped to the quiet Connecticut countryside, where, she says, she’s been enjoying nature in all its glory. “I was there at the tail end of the summer through the winter, and it was pretty special to see the leaves change day-to-day and hear the crackling fire pits and smell the smoky air.”
One of her first priorities upon arriving at Mayflower was to take stock of all the bounty the surrounding Litchfield county had to offer. Within weeks she had already made inroads with several nearby farms. “We use local butter from Kimberly Farms, which is just a five minute drive down the street, and I’m hoping we can work with them to produce some special ice cream flavors for us this Summer,” she reveals. Also on the docket: having Averill Farms whip up jams for guests made with fruit from their 275-year-old orchards. “These relationships and partnerships are part of the reason I do what I do. It’s not just about the food, it’s also about the interesting and passionate people that produce the food.”
Not only does Bloomfield take inspiration from local farms and seasonal produce when creating her carefully curated collection of menus, but she used the Celerie Kemble-designed interiors of the Inn’s two dining spaces as inspiration to set the moods and flavors for their respective dishes. In some ways, the theatrical differences reflect her love of contrast, especially when it comes to Mother Nature’s quarterly transitions. “Fall and spring are my favorite seasons because the change is so dramatic,” she notes. “Spring has this lightness which is completely different from the heaviness of winter. And then after the heat of summer comes Autumn with its crisp air and the heaviness sets in again.”
Within the cozy moss green and deep teal walls of the Tap Room, for example, she serves her signature casual but elevated gastropub fare like creamy smoked haddock chowder (a recipe she’s been making for over twenty years), lush deviled eggs, and of course, her beloved Tap Room burger. Working with local bakery Wave Hill, Bloomfield designed the perfect sesame seed-sprinkled bun specifically for this tender masterpiece that’s topped with fried onions and a light raclette sauce. “I think I get more excited about the onions on this than anything else!” she laughs. “Beef and onions work really well together. It’s a classic combination that people eat in England, like beef-and-onion pie or beef-and-oyster pie.” On the other hand, for the airy, sun-drenched Garden Room (which she likens to sitting in a greenhouse), Bloomfield devised a 4-course tasting menu brimming with bright dishes that cast fresh vegetables in the starring roles. As the mercury starts rising outside, she envisions swapping out the rich and floral vegetables of Autumn—think roasted parsnips, heirloom pumpkin puree, and confit Jerusalem artichokes—for Spring’s finest green peas, ramps and fiddlehead ferns to reflect the energy and spirit of the new season.
An essential focus for both menus is letting every single element of a dish shine—a hallmark of Bloomfield’s cooking—whether it’s the decadent Tap Room burger or the Garden Room’s hamachi crudo and pickled vegetables. “I always want the ingredients to speak for themselves. Every time I come up with a new dish I think, what can this do with more of and what can it do without. I don’t overcomplicate anything.” And as part of her desire to have her clients taste the creme de la creme of produce, she has plans to go hyperlocal by revitalizing and even expanding the Inn’s current kitchen garden. But for Bloomfield, all of this is merely the beginning of her new chapter. “There are so many opportunities to have something amazing grow here at The Mayflower.”