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Of flannel and plaid

January 26, 2015

 

Starched white coat, long white apron, black and white check pants and a tall white hat. That's the uniform for a chef, right? For decades, that's the image we've seen. When I first started cooking, I was overjoyed to put on my fresh white coat, check pants, clogs and tall white toque. I actually took this pride to the next level by wearing my check pants and clogs out in public even when I wasn't working just so people would recognize me as a 'cook'. When I put on the dalmatian pants, black coat and black beanie at the Inn at Little Washington, it felt a little like putting on an Orioles uniform. I had finally made it to 'the show'.

 

The uniform of a chef certainly has evolved from the days of Escoffier. Pick up any chef wear magazine and you are bound to see chili pepper pants or camouflage chef coats; bandanas with every pattern imaginable emblazoned on them. The chef uniform has now become a place to display the creativity and style of the chef and kitchen team.

 

if you walk in to Josephine on any given night, you won't find me in the white coat, checked pants or tall white hat. However, if you look for a guy wearing either flannel or plaid, jeans and an over the head grey apron, you may have spotted me. There is a reason for this uniform and I thought I'd take this week's blog post to share it with you.

 

Professional cooking is blue collar work. Without getting into the craft vs. art debate, I look at myself as a hard working craftsman. Nashville is a city where people make things. Everyone thinks music when they think Nashville, but they should also think jeans, shirts, shoes, ties, baseball bats, leather goods, chocolates and candies, etc. Nashville is a city of craftspeople and you can really feel that spirit in the air. Add to that spirit, a growing number of farmers and cooks who are passionate about practicing their craft.

 

Flannel and plaid have always spoken to me as timeless, honest materials and patterns worn by solid, hard working people. Growing up in Pennsylvania, it seemed that every child came out of the womb in a Woolrich pattern, usually buffalo plaid. When we opened Josephine and I had the opportunity to choose what I would wear on a daily basis, I was reminded of an interview I read with Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery. He remarked that he spent so much time working and he wanted to look stylish while he was working, so he chose to wear button down dress shirts to work. I really like that idea because I could relate to spending so much time at work; work clothes tended to be the majority of my wardrobe. I was growing tired of a closet full of chef coats, so I decided that plaid and flannel would be my choice of shirt to wear in the kitchen. Just like the white chef coat, there is meaning behind that flannel and plaid. It reminds me of hardworking, thoughtful people who are putting everything they have into their craft, day after day. We aspire to do those very same things at Josephine. Getting a little bit better every day.

 

It will surprise no one that I am particular about the type of shirts I wear. The picture that leads this post is of a shirt made for me by the great folks at Denim and Spirits in Nashville. In addition to shirts, I am also madly in love with their jeans. Everything they make is so thoughtful and expertly crafted. The flannel shirt is the softest material I have every worn.

 

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