I wanted a good apron. A really good apron.
I looked around and found a lot of really cool ones. The problem I faced was that none of the aprons out there had it all. If I was going to spend the kind of money these company's were charging for an apron it was going to have to be the BEST apron money can buy. Now I've been wearing aprons in kitchens for 10+ years and I knew what I wanted out of an apron. Sure some aprons had the material I was looking for, and others had some really smart pockets. Others had comfortable straps and others had leather trim, but at the end of the day no one had put it all together the way I wanted. So, I borrowed my mom's sewing machine and late one night after work I watched a couple youtube videos, half drunk, and taught myself to sew. Two days later I had my first few aprons.
Then, like any excited boy with a new toy, I posted a couple pics of what I had created. Everyone wanted one. Literally after one post I had like 15 orders. The very first apron I sold was featured in a Cincinnati Magazine article about local chefs and their favorite aprons. That article was the first taste of the excitement and support with which the industry greeted Fox Aprons. From the beginning, the aprons were backordered. Working long hours as a chef and being a novice sewer, I didn't have time for the 5 to 7 hours it took to sew each apron by myself. In the early days, I couldn't have made it without the help of Amy Thompson, a friend and colleague of mine who helped with the sewing and other aspects of the young business.
As other chefs and bartenders wore the aprons to work I began to get feedback, and lots of it. I took it to heart and continued to perfect my designs.
Eventually I had it. Every part of this apron had been well thought out, designed, constructed, tested, redesigned, tested and perfected. Rather than offering numerous options and multiple styles, I took what we learned wearing the aprons and continuously honed a singularly perfect design. It quickly became clear that Fox Aprons was outgrowing my basement. A big change in scale occurred when I reached out to Noble Denim, a fellow Cincinnati company run by young entrepreneurs with years of quality, ethical and larger scale manufacturing experience. I looked to them for advice and was met with SO much more. That collaboration has allowed the aprons to keep all of their original charm and energy, but Noble's expertise vastly increased the quality and durability of the materials, stitching and other functional details.
Now each Fox Apron is made with pride by expert American hands in Tennessee.
As is often the case, many good things happened all at once. I was honored to be promoted to sous chef of Cincinnati's beloved Salazar restaurant in Over the Rhine. The 70+ hours a week required for that position left me with even less time to work on the aprons, just as the company's growth was becoming exponential. Luckily my girlfriend, Jen Painter, then partnered with me in the apron business. Most often, due to both of our hectic schedules, we tend to have our business meetings in our underwear between the sheets at around one or two in the morning when I get home from work.
Fox Aprons are my answer to a new issue arising in the culinary world. We are moving away from the need to wear a stiff white "chef coat" and tall hat to be seen as a professional. Without these dated standards we are left with an open canvas in terms of our attire. The front of the house is evolving in a similar direction, as foodies seek a fine dining culinary experience yet an environment relaxed enough to wear jeans, we find ourself shedding a lot of the lingering pretension in our industry from previous generations and choosing instead to focus solely on the food and service. I look at the apron as another tool in my arsenal, not just something to keep my shirt clean. Every aspect of my day is about being more efficient so that I can spend the maximum amount of time perfecting the food, my art. An apron can and should help me do that. It should also be something I'm proud to wear on the floor talking to guests.
I believe the apron is the new chef coat and in that vein, Fox Aprons are not your everyday white. It's your show piece.