This week I'm woman-crushing on Ellen Marie Bennett, a.k.a. "The Apron Lady", mostly because of her colorful Instagram feed, but also because she's one talented boss lady that is coming to our city for Charleston Wine & Food Festival! It starts today and you don't want to miss it. Here is a little about Ellen, who I'm hoping to meet during the festival!
Who is The Apron Lady? I'm Ellen, the Founder and CEO of Hedley & Bennett, the Los Angeles based apron company that I started in 2012 at age 24. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California but I am half Mexican so I spent a lot of time there too. I was definitely far from an ordinary kid and very independent from a young age after my parents got divorced. I became very interested in cooking and testing out new recipes for my single mom and little sister while growing up. This is when I realized my love for the kitchen and cooking. When I was old enough, I packed up and moved to Mexico City for Culinary School to continue my passion for cooking. After living in Mexico for a few years and graduating I moved back to the states and worked as a line cook at two Los Angeles’ restaurants (Baco Mercat and two-Michelin star rated Providence). I noticed the stale look and poor quality of the aprons I wore daily and I was inspired to make a more functional apron, so I worked with my chef, Josef Centeno of Baco Mercat, to design my first run of aprons for his staff. That was the official start of Hedley & Bennett!
What are Hedley & Bennett aprons, and why is there so much hype about them? Our mission is to design the world’s best workwear & build a community in the kitchen and beyond. Each fabrication detail has been carefully considered to handle the rigorous daily use experienced in a working kitchen. All our products are handmade from start to finish use only top grade materials such as American canvas, raw Japanese selvage denim and European linens. These unique pieces (aprons, chef coats, chef hats, potholders, napkins and more!) are high quality and built to last. Every apron also features adjustable straps, brass hardware, and well-placed pockets reinforced with bar tacks to avoid ripping. The construction of our aprons came from my own experience in the kitchen and from talking to and listening to what people needed and wanted. The Apron Squad literally grew one member at a time. I started running between restaurants and farmers markets with bags of fabric swatches and apron samples, talking to everyone I could get my hands on about this exciting new idea. We are now in over 4000 restaurants and outfit some of the best chefs and institutions in the world like Delta Airlines, SpaceX, Google, Bon Appetit, Whole Foods, Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, David Chang, Alinea Shake Shack, Curtis Stone and shows on Food Network and Top Chef.
When/where: where can people find you at CHSWFF? Well, we are working really closely with CHSWFF this year so you can find our aprons on all the chefs there as well as in their market place! We are also worn in many Charleston restaurants such as Leon's, Hen and the Goat, Fig, Butcher & the Bee, Callie's Biscuits and more. You can see me speak at Pecha Kucha on Friday night at The Cigar Factory. You can also find Ellen via her adorable Instagram at @ellenmariebennett or @hedleyandbennett. Her website is http://www.hedleyandbennett.com/, and you should watch this clip to learn more about her rags to riches story from her Today Show feature.
Why does making aprons continue to inspire you? When I established Hedley & Bennett, it was born to inspire a sense of dignity and pride in the kitchen. I recognized a recurring pattern in drab kitchen workwear: bland, generic, and essentially disposable uniforms that were completely uninspiring. I had the vision to make people feel as amazing as the food they prepared. Through the community of culinary professionals, our aprons have turned into a nationwide movement and it fuels me to keep going!