Rochelle Huppin, founder and president of the Chicago, IL-based Chefwear, Inc., believes that chefs uniforms were born out of practicality and have always been an important facet of the profession. The double-breasted front panel jacket allows a chef to enter the dining room or service looking presentable. The hounds-tooth pattern acts as a camouflage. Today, the growing number of open kitchens brings even more attention to the chef uniform. Customers want to see the chef and it’s important that they look professional.
Growing up in Spokane, WA, the young Rochelle had her heart set on moving to Paris to study cooking, but her parents suggested she attend college in the United States first and then go to culinary school. During her senior year at UCLA, she tended the herb garden and spent time in the kitchen at the Hotel Bel-Air, re-igniting her desire for a culinary career. So, after earning her bachelor’s degree with honors from UCLA, she went on to attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
After graduating in 1987 with a degree in culinary arts, she returned to the Hotel Bel-Air, this time in the kitchen creating pastries. Chef Huppin next landed a job as a pastry assistant with Michel Richard’s newly opened Citrus restaurant in Los Angeles. She later went on to serve as opening pastry chef for Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA and then moved back to Los Angeles to work for Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff at Spago, Chinois on Main, Eureka, and Granita. In total, Chef Huppin helped open nearly a dozen restaurants in her pastry career, receiving accolades all along the way.
The concept for Chefwear began as a personal necessity and ultimately revolutionized the way chefs dress. The stiff, unattractive polyester pants issued to Rochelle as a CIA freshman in 1985 prompted her to get a doctor’s note saying she was allergic to polyester and ask a friend to make a 100% cotton uniform for her to wear. A few years later, while working at Granita, Chef Huppin had seven pairs of chef’s pants made up in cotton—and in various colors—and the rest is history. In 1990, she went on to develop Chefwear, Inc., a company featuring a full line of contemporary and traditional chef clothing. By 1992, the growing business demanded her full-time attention, and with the help of then-boyfriend now-Chefwear partner Gary Fleck, Chef Huppin devoted all her time to Chefwear. The company’s lines of chef apparel are functional and stylish, and celebrate the diversity of the culinary work place.
Rochelle Huppin is an avid supporter of such industry organizations as The James Beard Foundation, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Les Dames d’Escoffier, the American Culinary Federation, and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Chefwear is also very involved in giving programs for local and national charitable organizations, including Share Our Strength, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Meals on Wheels, and The Patrick Clark Foundation, as well as numerous schools and culinary educational organizations.