For Love of Aprons and Denim.
It began as a hobby. I always loved wearing aprons, even before I was a line cook. I enjoyed the ritual of putting on an apron to begin the process of cooking at home as a kid. It felt like a suit of armor to me. Like I could do anything, make anything and that as long as I had it on, it was time to work. As I grew I developed a similar love for jeans. There is something so iconic about denim jeans. I was drawn in before I really understood just how cool they were. All I knew was that if I had on a pair of jeans I felt stronger.
One day I found a pair of overalls at a thrift store that were just my size. I started wearing them around and realized that, aside from all the compliments from much trendier people than my self (by a long shot!), they were also super comfortable and utilitarian. It dawned on me that they were essentially just an apron with legs only these pockets were much more well designed and well placed than the virtually any apron I dad ever worn.
One of the biggest fans of my new overalls was a fellow chef. Jeff or "N.O." as we called him as he was born and raised in New Orleans. He was all about them. He had an unusual way about him. His dialect, his cooking style, his ability to effortlessly create culinary masterpieces out of anything and keep it approachable and inviting. Even the way he wore his apron. He wore a classic white apron and would tie the waist straps to the base of the neck loop after having crossed them in the back. It took me a while before I asked what that was all about and when I did, it gave me a bit of insight into the genius that was N.O. "Way more comfortable like this. It don't hang off my neck when I cross em up. Try it out."
Obscure memories with images of old time house maids with the all black uniform and a white apron with white lace back straps that went over the shoulders and either crossed the back or came down to a waist belt came rushing into my head. It occurred to me that this wasn't about fashion but rather comfort. Of course these women must have worked as long or even longer hours than a chef and if you are wearing an apron for Twelve, Fourteen, or even Sixteen hours a day, it would really matter that said apron was comfortable.
It all came together when I found myself promoted to Sous Chef at Salazar in Cincinnati (where Jeff and I worked together) and wanted to treat myself. I knew what I wanted and I was very specific in what that was. A denim apron with pockets on the chest plate but none on the belly, cross back straps and leather details.
I started to look around online for just that apron. I found only a few options. I WANTED THEM ALL! They were all AWSOME but none were exactly what I was looking for. There was also the price. I had never thought to spend more than say $70 on an apron but I guess I had never before looked for or was interested in finding THE BEST APRON. These guys were charging between $120 and $200 for a single apron. I was surprised but ultimately believed it would be worth it. If I WAS going to spend that kind of money on a denim apron It was going to have to hit all the marks and these were all missing something. One was denim with leather trim but not cross back. Another had a cross back and denim but the pockets were not well placed. I just couldn't bring myself to "settle" at that price point. As a chef, that kind of money means a lot and I wasn't willing to settle.
I borrowed my mothers sewing machine and watched a few YouTube videos to figure out how to use it. After a couple days I had Three aprons that had it all. They were far from perfect but I WAS HOOKED! I spent the entirety of my Christmas vacation sewing and tweaking the design. The next few months was consumed with the kitchen during the day and aprons at night. I would wear an apron all day and tweak it all night. What I saved making my own I certainly paid for in a lack of sleep but it was WELL WORTH IT.
I took design inspiration from those overalls as an ode to the farmer. The real hero in the culinary industry. I kept the pockets off of the waist so that you don't jab yourself with what ever is in them every time you bend over. I experimented with different strap designs and materials. I tried a multitude of different kinds of hardware and lengths and widths and materials. I tried stretchy denim and ridged denim. Thin denim and thick denim. Once I had it down I immediately started to get people interested in buying them. The problem was that they took me somewhere in the neighborhood of Seven hours to produce a single apron. As a working chef there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with the demand I was getting right out of the gate. I was going to have to find help.
After a whorl wind of a few months I had the best apron I could imagine. I found an American manufacturer and sourced the best American made materials I could find and from there I decided to give it a few years to make sure these aprons actually stood the test of time the way I had hoped. I had so many little issues with those first few aprons that I had made that I would have hated telling people that these aprons were the best denim apron around and then they fall apart after a year or so in the heat and insanity that is a working kitchen. We are now Six years in and I am still wearing an apron from the first batch made. It's all faded and has aged just like an old pair of jeans but it is still holding strong! The one pictured below is not the prettiest but it is Six years old and has been the one I've tried my best to break. if treated well they will look more like the picture on the front page with my arms crossed. They fade in unique lines but retain their color. The one below was worn 80+hrs a week in a real kitchen. I've put it though the wash on every setting many times. I even left it out back of my house for nearly a year in the elements which subsequently required a good bleaching to bring back to life. She's not the only one I wear but she's the one I've worn most and it shows!