Even if your establishment can’t compete with the fashion houses of Rome or Milan, a bit of style in your uniforms and shoes can go a long way in creating a brand identity and making a favorable impression on your customers.
While many chefs and cooks continue to choose the traditional white chef’s jacket, more and more are making a fashion statement by choosing jackets in stylish colors and designs. Service staff uniforms are also moving away from the basic white-shirt-and-black pants combination into fashionable wear. These clothes may not be high couture by Vogue magazine standards, but some of them are stylish enough to be worn after work hours and durable enough to withstand the rigors of tough restaurant usage.
The Amalfi Signature chef jacket from Chef Works is available in white with charcoal piping, or charcoal with red piping. The jacket features side panels with a moisture-wicking technology, which allows air to flow through. The same technology is also available in a line of shirts for front-of-house usage. With a dramatic black trim shoulder panel, Chef Revival’s Metro chef jacket is made from a new quick-drying fabric which the company claims will hold its color longer than traditional fabrics do. Chefwear has also just introduced a line of casual jackets and tunics for use by behind-the-bar staff.
Pants—they’re either checked or black and they come with a couple of pockets. As long as they’ve stayed up, that’s really all that’s mattered. But nowadays it’s de rigueur to be fashionable below the waist, too. Chefwear’s Yoga Fusion line of women’s chef pants takes its cue from comfortable, loose-fitting exercise wear. These 100 percent cotton pants feature a flat elastic waistband and boot-cut leg opening. When it comes to more traditional chef pants, patterns are getting more wild and exciting. Happy Chef’s 100 percent cotton print baggy pants come in 14 prints, ranging from the traditional hound’s tooth check to an Asian fish design or a pixel-block “digital” pattern.
You could say that steps are being taken to make back-of-house shoes look more fashionable (see Shoe by a chef), but safety and comfort are still paramount in footwear for foodservice. According to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, falls were the second-largest cause of disabling injuries in 2008 in all American industries. Given the wet, greasy environments often found in foodservice operations, preventing slip injuries becomes even more critical.
In slip-resistant shoes, it all comes down to the tread. A star-shaped tread pattern on the sole of the Michelin line of kitchen shoes helps channel liquids away from under the foot for increased floor contact and safety. Channels on the sole of Skidbuster’s slip-resistant shoes direct liquids to the outsoles, where lugs help move the liquid away from the shoes.
One of the latest trends to hit the kitchen is the “rocker” shoe. Like the popular walking shoes promoted as an aid for toning muscles, these have a curved, rather than flat, sole. As this type of shoe is made more for walking than standing, it may be more appropriate for servers or other active staff members than for cooks, who may be standing in one place for long periods of time. Shoes for Crews makes three models of this type of shoe, called the StayFit, for women. Skechers’ Shape-Ups are available in both men’s and women’s models.
Shoe by a chef
What would happen if chefs designed their own shoes? They might look like the new shoes designed for Mozo by Chris Cosentino, executive chef and co-owner of Incanto and Boccalone in San Francisco. Chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Aarón Sánchez have also done shoes for the line. We caught up with Cosentino and asked what got him interested in shoe design. “Chef shoes are a key part of my day. I stand in them for at least 14 hours, so they really need to feel great. I always felt there was a need for a more comfortable and stylish chef shoe,” he explained.
Cosentino’s shoe, the Fifth Quarter, is a casual-style white slip-on with a honeycomb tripe design on the front of the shoe. He calls it “a reflection of myself—a throwback to my days skateboarding, and my favorite cut of offal.” He claims the 10-ounce weight of his shoes makes them comfortable: “Having a light work shoe goes a long way, especially if you are walking back and forth all day.” The grip tread on the sole makes them practical for kitchen use but Cosentino admits style is key, too, quoting the old Billy Crystal line from Saturday Night Live: “It is better to look good than to feel good, my friend!”