If you’re an avid cook with a wardrobe you’d like to remain intact, an apron is an essential kitchen item. Amazon is filled with plenty of $9 polyester options that will do the job (i.e., protect your clothes from food spills) just fine. To get something that’s better than just fine, ask a chef.
After polling some, as well as bartenders, two apron-related points became clear: (1) a cross-back bib-top apron, rather than one that loops around the neck, is the way to go. And (2) the industry has its own Status Aprons. In particular, they talk about two small specialty brands from New York that launched in recent years: Tilit and Jones of Boerum Hill. Both make special-edition versions, cost around $100, sell direct to consumers, and are deeply beloved by chefs. For at-home cooks merely in search of a comfortable-yet-attractive apron, however, the experts I spoke with were happy to recommend their favorite affordable options as well.
The best aprons
Susan Choi, a chef and owner of Mr. Susan cocktail bar in Berlin, tends to stock up on kitchen goods while back home in the United States. That includes her preferred aprons from Chef Works. “I love the Berkeley bib aprons with a cross-back with suspenders,” she says. “First, the tailoring just makes you look good, slick, and put-together; second, the suspenders are amazing, versus having something hanging off your neck.” This denim-and-red one is her current favorite.
For mixing and stirring drinks, Choi prefers this shorter Chef Works apron that keeps her from looking overdressed for the task of bartending. “I like the bib version for the prepping and cooking,” Choi says, “and the waist one for behind the bar,” noting that you can also change out the waist ties.
Nate Courtland, an alum of Union Square Cafe, al di là, Esca, and Montana’s Trail House, who more recently launched Hot Fire Hot Sauce in Long Island City, likes his Blue Cut apron, and wore his last one until it fell apart. “I wore that thing every day and it got better with age,” he says. “The clasp in the back is crucial, so you don’t have a floppy string on your waist, dragging ladles out of the pot, or getting caught on stuff.” Blue Cut, like many chef favorites, also offers custom work.
I also checked with Sophie von Oswald, who runs Berlin’s German-Iranian catering company, Rocket & Basil, with her sister, Xenia. While waiting for their permanent restaurant to open later this year, I noticed they always look great going about their apron-clad work on Instagram. Von Oswald says that in their pictures, she and her sister wear aprons from British line Labour and Wait. Her other pick is the brother-and-sister company Enrich & Endure. Von Oswald likes their “lovely materials,” referring to their linen, which is produced in Northern Ireland. The Citizenry recently collaborated with Enrich & Endure on an elegant, linen, color-blocked number.
For a cheaper alternative, von Oswald recommends this denim cotton Muji apron. Like many of the chefs’ preferences, it has shoulder straps, rather than an annoying neck loop.
It also comes in this nice greige color.
Jeff Seizer, who worked at Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe before moving to North Carolina to open French-American restaurants Royale Raleigh and Lucarne, loves his apron from Cayson Designs — which costs half what its competitors do. “I love this apron so much,” he says, “the feel is amazing, it’s amazing quality for the price. And in the large size, it’s quite long and wraps around you fully — I like a long apron.”
And Courtland’s affordable alternative to his favorite from Blue Cut is from Bragard. They’re “not one of those ‘TV appearance’ aprons,” he says, “but they look nice.” He adds that they’re intended for everyday use and he’s found them to be well-made.
Plus the Status Aprons
Seizer says he has “more Tilit aprons than any other.” Tilit, run by a husband-and-wife team in New York, produces a full line of kitchenwear, all designed with the idea that chefs need utilitarian garments, but desire and deserve handsome ones, too. Seizer calls their aprons “top-notch,” points out that the company can do custom work, and appreciates that their aprons have “lots of pockets for pens and sharpies.” (If you’re interested in a top-to-bottom cooking outfit, Seizer also recommends Tilit’s “light and casual” chef jackets.)
Katie Byrum, a bartender at Studio at the Freehand Hotel, recommends Jones of Boerum Hill. The six-year-old Brooklyn apron-makers are great, she says, because their products are “lightweight and some are reversible with pockets in different places, either at the waist or a breast pocket.” She adds, “Also, the fit is very flattering for women — a clean line as opposed to other aprons that bunch and bulge in awkward ways.”
For the snazziest of aprons, one name came up three times: Hedley & Bennett. “If you interview chefs, I guarantee this will be the top pick,” Seizer said, correctly. He lists them as his third-favorite apron, but only because of the price point. Shanti Church, co-owner of Talula’s Pizza in Asbury Park, New Jersey, tells me she gets all of her restaurants’ aprons from Vlad, a local denim worker. But for something more widely available, she also recommends Hedley & Bennett aprons.
Courtland recommends them, too: When he had to replace his worn-out Blue Cut apron, he chose a Hedley & Bennett (that he found on sale at Whole Foods).
Williams-Sonoma will also monogram them for you.
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