But for all her not trying, she has changed the way we dine. “We were desperate for the gastropub experience,” says Barbuto chef Jonathan Waxman. “It’s such an English sensibility, to drink beer and eat at the bar, but they had crappy food forever and suddenly all these young chefs wanted to fix things. But it was April who really understood it. It was April who brought it to America. And she did it with American ingredients, which is the coolest thing.”
She also did it as a woman, which is quite unusual. It’s easier for women chefs to go into pastry than pig’s ears. She has had problems with men in the business taking her seriously. But things have been changing. Batali announced her and anointed her. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who lives a few blocks from the Pig and makes it his 2 a.m. stop when he’s forgotten to eat, says, “The fries with rosemary are to die for. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of them.” And Waxman says, “I love that woman more than you know.”
If there is a gentle condescension to the way male chefs talk about her—the sweet offal girl who runs the place at which the terribly serious male chefs can get some fries late at night—she doesn’t let it get to her. Not a lot does. Bourdain says she’s so good that “she can get away with running the hottest restaurants in town.” He means that coolness can detract from the food, but she is too uninterested in the perks of running a hot restaurant to let that happen.
Back in the barroom, it is six o’clock. The man in his forties and the girl in her twenties have fingered their way to the bottom of a bowl of boiled peanuts fried in pork fat. As they get up to leave, the young girl signs the bill and takes the older man’s résumé, and she thanks him for his interest.