Chefs get excited to work with a new element of the kitchen—an untried toy, a sparkling piece of stainless steel, an unusual ingredient. “I can’t wait to get into the kitchen tomorrow to try…” Damn! That’s a great feeling. The kitchen is not always the playground full of dancing bears and rainbows for which we all hope. When a little fairy dust drifts in to make magic, we tend to sit up and take notice. So, when Tilit Chef Goods delivers gear, it makes for a good, good day.
Alex McCrery, founder of Tilit (pictured below), is forthright about throwing his kitchen knives to the wind and picking up a sewing machine. Parlaying essentially a dream job as personal chef to Jerry Seinfeld and his family into a new venture, McCrery set out on a mission. “I wanted to do something different and new. I wanted it to be street-ready,” McCrery, 36, says of the utility-based line of chef gear.
The startling absence of sensible apparel for cooks was the impetus for the venture. As a working chef, McCrery first and foremost wanted practicality, and for the gear “to be about the people that wear it.” Discussing chef clothing already on the market, McCrery remarked, “some of the [stuff] was silly, you changed in the bathroom. Tilit is more subtle.” Tilit’s sturdy aprons, chef coats, work shirts and cooks’ pants are designed with the individuals wearing them in mind—rugged and identifiable.
McCrery confesses that going into the business was a bit a of an adventure. Knowing nothing about making clothing, he took sewing classes to become familiar with the process. “The people in the Fashion District [in New York City] were very welcoming,” he says of his entry into the apparel world.
The Tilit brand, pioneered with the input of the customers that would be wearing the line, started by reinventing the classic chef coat, with crowd input on the design. Slightly surprised by what customers wanted of the new jacket, McCrery says that “the chef coat they wanted would be a better fitting, slightly stylized version of the classic” rather than a complete departure from the traditional garb. The look caught on.
Tilit outfits the crews around some of New York’s finest eateries and beyond. For example, you can catch chefs donning Tilit gear at notable stops like El Comado and The Cannibal. There’s a charitable angle to Tilit too—it’s onboard with Feed the Children and continues investing in the neighborhood where the company’s studio is based (in the Lower East Side).
“One day, we want to have a retail space, office and test kitchen. Kinda like a Williams-Sonoma on crack,” McCrery quips about the growth of the brand. Short term goals are to expand the line —there is a chef bag coming, too, and it’s “not necessarily a knife roll.”
With the coats ringing in at $95 to start, Tilit apparel is for “the individual look, [for cooks] to be proud of what they do.” And with a Contra apron on, it is most definitely a pride thing that makes even a long day of kitchen wizardry feel that much more magical.
Shop Tilit Chef Goods by visiting their online store.
- Photos: Jim Berman