When Celebrity Chefs Turn to the Sewing Machine

By Graham Kates  |  October 24, 2013

A stroll through just about any department store reveals vast troves of products endorsed, branded or developed around the names of celebrity chefs. Skillets by Emeril Lagasse; knives from Rachael Ray; Gordon Ramsay Ramekins (unfortunately, not called “Gordon Ramsekins”); the list can go on ad infinitum.

But food celebrity brands increasingly rely less on culinary achievement and more on the pop icon status of these television stars who happen to be chefs. As a result, chefs are branching out, creating or endorsing products that go beyond the home kitchen.

More and more, they’re entering the crowded world of fashion.

Perhaps it started with Mario Batali’s famous Crocs. As the chef sauntered before cameras, American viewers got molto looks at his rubbery footwear. Years later, Crocs is still selling an entire line of “chef shoes,” including a pair with Batali’s name on them.

So other chefs got in the footwear game. Soon enough Mozo, the company that makes slip-resistant work shoes for chefs, introduced its line of footwear by Marcus Samuelsson, Chris Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez.

The line - which featured skull- and pig-based designs, among others - sold well and soon enough chefs really started to work the sewing machines.

Last year, online clothing retailer Flavour Gallery introduced a line of t-shirts designed by Andrew Zimmern, Cosentino and other famous chefs. Then, earlier this year, Cosentino designed a line of food-themed socks, briefs and pants. The socks look like meat and the briefs feature dotted lines and are lined like a butcher’s chart. The “chef jeans” include a special pocket for pens and a vented crotch.

The items are listed on Betabrand, a site that will only produce pieces of clothing if a set number of consumers agree beforehand to buy. All of Cosentino’s designs have been funded.

And now the time has come for chefs to look beyond the food-themed…kinda. They're straight up doing their own clothing lines minus the food theme, just like J.Lo or Beyonce.

Alton Brown’s recently announced line of bow ties, sold by men’s accessory retailer hook+Albert, all have food-related names (Cherry Wine Pie, Midnight Jam, etc.), but that’s where the culinary tie-in ends.

The food world’s answer to Bill Nye the Science Guy is leveraging his association with an item that TV science guys have long been associated with.

And why not? As long as Brown (and Cosentino and Batali before him) pays close attention to the marketing of his items, he has little to lose. If the bow ties don’t fly off the digital racks, he’s just a quirky celeb pushing a quirky item, but if they’re a hit, a whole new world of income and influence - beyond the kitchen - lies at his feet (pocket squares, anyone?).