This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are eating, drinking, and buying right now. Here, Zoe Denenberg sings the praises of her chef’s pants.
In my household, Sunday is laundry day—except for the past two weeks, when I’ve been too busy frollicking around town to get a load in. At this point, my wardrobe options are looking mighty slim, but working from home, it hasn’t been much of a problem. Sure, I’ve run through all of my first-string sweatpants, but there remain my back-up pajamas.
Today though, the promise of free lunch lured me into the office—and still having failed to do a load of laundry, I had not one clean pair of pants to wear. Already running late, I plunged to the depths of my drawers and unearthed a pair of black chef’s pants, untouched since my restaurant days. After contemplating for a very brief moment, I decided: Sure, why not? As soon as I slid these chef pants on, I could not believe I’d gone so long without them.
I ordered these pants on the first week of a new job, in the kitchen of a restaurant in New York City. At previous bakery jobs, I wore a pair of black leggings, rife with holes and milk stains. But in this kitchen, all of the cooks wore chef pants—and I quickly discovered why. Chef pants are designed to be breathable (with all the open flames, the kitchen’s average temperature hovered around 90°F) and have many pockets into which you can shove Sharpies, thermometers, and rogue tickets. After my first shift on the line, it became imminently clear that my holey black leggings (which had no pockets and glued to my skin in the heat of the kitchen) wouldn’t cut it. I searched “black chef pants” on Amazon and added the first result to my cart.
The polycotton fabric of these chef pants has a shiny, satiny finish; in my otherwise boring cook’s uniform (black t-shirt, black baseball cap, black work boots), they made me feel a little glamorous, and I’d often field compliments on them from coworkers. But with these pants, fashion does not belie function: They’ve got pockets galore, with two super-deep primary pockets and additional button-up cargo pockets on each side. The secure yet stretchy drawstring waistband holds them firmly in place—no riding up or down. And since they’re designed for chefs, they’re durable. Even after countless washes (and many shifts on the line), they’ve never torn or shrunk. As I’ve written about before, I’m incredibly spill-prone, but these pants seem to have some kind of protective forcefield: Any liquid I spill on them beads right off. The magic of polyester.
Perhaps most importantly, they actually look kind of cool? After widespread thirst and fervor over Carmy and his iconic white t-shirt in The Bear, the line cook uniform has trickled into mainstream fashion. In addition to the plain white t-shirt, the many-pocketed cargo pants, clogs, and bandanas long donned by chefs are all part of the utilitarian “chef-core” aesthetic, and I am here for it. But no need to spend $98 on a pair of cargo pants from Free People—these $22 chef pants will help you look the part.
They’re baggy, but not too baggy so as to look unprofessional—thanks to the satiny sheen, I think they can even pass for slacks. They’re unisex, which means they’ve got a lot of space to breathe, and the proportions fit my short lady body perfectly (I wear them high-waisted in a size small, and they fall right at my ankles).
I don’t expect them to last forever, but for a $22 pair of pants, they’ve held up remarkably well. They might not be as high-end as my Ann Taylor slacks, but I plan to keep them in my new workwear rotation—even when I have done my laundry.