On the cover of April Bloomfield’s first cookbook, there’s a portrait of the chef with a fresh pig slung over her shoulders that telegraphs a lot about what this cook loves, and the spirit she brings to cooking that is as playful as it is precise and ingredient-driven. Not surprisingly, the book is called A Girl and Her Pig.

It is the pig, in fact, that launched Bloomfield’s career in New York City. In 2004, with business partner Ken Friedman, she opened the Spotted Pig, Manhattan’s first gastropub, which took pub fare and Italian food high and low and everywhere in between, with Bloomfield’s reverence for ingredients and her talent for balancing flavors. It’s garnered a Michelin star seven years straight. And in 2014, Bloomfield, won the 2014 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: New York City.

Bloomfield and Friedman didn’t stop with the Pig, though. The meat-centric Breslin  Bar & Dining Room followed in 2009 , The John Dory Oyster Bar in 2011; the colorful taqueria Salvation Taco, in 2012; and the rebirth of San Francisco’s landmark Tosca in 2014. And currently an East Village sandwich shop is in the works.

Born in a section of Birmingham, England, called Druid’s Heath, Bloomfield had her young sites set on becoming a police officer, but, she said, “I handed in my application too late. It’s funny how a small thing like that can change everything.” So it was to cooking school she went (she liked the “uniform”), and, then—proving herself to be a natural in the kitchen—to work for gastropub pioneers Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place, Adam Robinson at The Brackenbury, and Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum.  And for four years with Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at The River Café, Bloomfield developed a beautiful way with Mediterranean cooking.

Bloomfield may have come a long way from Druid’s Heath, but, says Jamie Oliver, she’s “one of the most humble genius chefs on the planet. This chef cooks like a ninja.”