Back in the day, the words chef and style didn’t belong in the same sentence. Chefs were resigned to plain white chef’s jackets and pants with chili pepper patterns. Nowadays, the game has changed and Alex McCrery is doing his part to change it for good.
It all started when McCrery, a 16-year kitchen veteran (Commander’s Palace, Aureole), moved into the world of private chefs and realized that he didn’t have to wear a traditional chef’s uniform anymore. He started looking for alternatives, but quickly found that there weren’t any. So, despite having no design experience, he created Tilit Chef Goods, a chef clothing company that focuses on style just as much as functionality.
Tilit’s designs are understated and fitted (think charcoal-colored chambray chef’s shirts, seen to the right), creating a look that makes sense both in the kitchen and at the bar after work. We caught up with the chef/designer to get the inside scoop on all things Tilit.
I heard you work for Jerry Seinfeld’s family at the moment.
I’ve been with them for just about four years now.
Do you ever serve marble rye?
No, I haven’t done that yet (laughs).
What inspired you to switch into designing clothes?
I feel like on the streets of New York and other places, this revolution of work wear became much more popular. I started thinking about what a cool job it is to be a chef, how people are lauded for working in kitchens and what a rock star lifestyle it is, but no one in their right mind would want to walk around dressed like a chef.
How would you describe your own sense of style and who you’re influenced by?
My influence comes mostly from the streets of New York. I love the individual style that a city like this has. As far as the stuff that I wear, my classic go-to is J. Crew. For specialty items, I’ll do Billy Reid or Rag and Bone. There’s a guy in my neighborhood, Jeff Staple (The Reed Space), that does some really cool streetwear.
Who’s wearing your chef gear right now?
It’s executive chefs at restaurants and people looking for something new. I thought it would mostly be in New York and other metropolitan cities like San Francisco and L.A., but it’s kind of been all over. I’ve had people from Texas, people in Florida. I have a guy in Milwaukee who’s really excited about having clothes that fit and look good so when you go hang out in the dining room, you don’t look like a slobby mess.
In terms of chefs today, who do you think dresses exceptionally well?
I love Bourdain’s rock star style. Somebody like Eddie Huang who’s rocking a tank top. At the same time, I love the button-up style of Daniel Humm or Thomas Keller.
Who would you want to see wearing your Tilit work shirt?
I think it would be neat if Seamus Mullen came to me looking for a new shirt. People that have their own well-established personal style.
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