Home Chef Chic: What to Wear in the Kitchen

You’ve got the skills, but do you have the garb?

In a professional kitchen, all eyes are on the food. The action is fast-paced, crowded and hot, so it’s not exactly time for a fashion show. A working kitchen requires nothing short of a uniform, a go-to outfit that allows a chef to slice, tenderize and transfer something big (and possibly bloody) from fridge to cutting board. Home chefs on the other hand … well, wait just a minute — they’re doing the exact same things! And with fewer assistants. Like zero.

So if a home chef is doing the work of a pro, shouldn’t they dress like one? Laguna Beach-based stylist (and self-professed Julia Childs groupie) Leslie Christen says, “Yes, Chef!” In fact, the first piece of your new cooking wardrobe is something that you might already have.

“Aside from clean hands, an apron is one of your best tools in the kitchen,” Christen says. “It’s an indicator that you mean business. A wearable hand towel, a family heirloom, and protector of the occasional kitchen disaster. To many it might seem like an unnecessary accessory … until they actually try one.” 

An apron is the ideal first step in this wardrobe journey, because it can literally go over anything. Styles, lengths and fabrics range from cute and versatile to Iron- Chef-Serious (see our Get the Look section). Leslie wears an apron that’s been in her family for ages, “I love the sentimentality of it.  If that apron could talk, oh how wonderful the stories would be. It makes me feel like I can cook anything.”

 Once your apron is tied, it’s time to take one step further into chef-dom. Peek into any restaurant kitchen and the staff is outfitted in similar coats, pants and shoes. But where to start?

“Comfort is key,” Leslie says.“If you are not comfortable in the kitchen it will show through your cooking.” Kitchen pros don everything from jeans to stretchy chinos as pants, so Leslie suggests trying different pieces on. “Bend, twist, sit and walk in them. How do they make you feel, like you can conquer that souffle?!”

A chef coat, the utilitarian shirt-style coat that all pro cooks wear, may be for you, but Leslie says comfy, sturdy shoes are vital to a chef’s day, “They’re on their feet all day, so why not opt for the most comfortable footwear out there? Many wear Crocs or Boston-Style Birkenstocks, others wear Dansko clogs, and many now are opting for Vans or Converse in the kitchen. I guess it just matters on personal style!”

Get the Look. Leslie Christen’s Guide to Fashionable Function in the Kitchen.

Christina Tosi, Instagram
  1. If you want to look extra professional opt for a chef coat. Hedley & Bennett have some really sleek designs and flattering silhouettes. Aprons are not only a kitchen must-have, they also make a great gift! Styles range in length and fabric, but almost all new versions have a chest pocket designed specifically for smartphones. “I love the stylings of both Hedley & Bennett and Lost Car Chef Apparel. You can also check out local spots like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma for some inspired looks.”
  2. Hats are functional in the kitchen, but Leslie says a home chef can incorporate their favorite headband too to keep your hair from interfering with your culinary creation. Leslie loves the quirky style of Master Chef Junior co-host and Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi, “Christina stays true to herself in the kitchen in more ways than one. You’ll usually find her in the kitchen looking casual yet chic in jeans, a tee and her signature top-knot headband. And have you tried her Crack Pie? It’s amazing!!”
  3. A stylist recommended Crocs? Comfort and ease are required when you’re on your feet all day. Crocs’ Bistro Clogs $49.99. Unisex. Available in Men’s and Women’s sizes. 

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