Women Say ‘Yes, Chef!’ to Nontraditional Chef’s Jackets

Anyone who’s ever dined out knows that stark white chef’s jackets are synonymous with restaurant kitchens. They’re also usually shapeless and made for men.

Female chef Hannah Staddon found those traditional chef’s jackets so frustratingly boxy and unflattering for her “curvy” shape that she created the Funky Chef line of fitted, fashion-forward chef’s jackets made exclusively for women.

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“The traditional plain white chef’s coat was designed for men’s bodies and fails to capture the creativity, form and function demanded by today’s female culinary professionals,” said Staddon, CEO. “I would buy jackets advertised as ‘for women’ and still have to tailor them because they had no shape and clung to all the wrong places (likely designed by men).”

Funky Chef has a pear logo in a nod to Staddon’s self-described “pear shape,” and the brand aims to “empower the next generation of female chefs, ensuring they feel confident in their everyday uniforms.”

Born in South Africa — jackets are produced in South Africa to support the rebuilding of the textile industry — Staddon currently works on a yacht charter in the British Virgin Islands where she’s the chef and her husband is the captain. Funky Chef designs have also found their way onto the popular yacht-driven TV series “Below Deck.”

Tzarina Mace-Ralph (left), chef on TV series “Below Deck,” with Funky Chef founder and CEO Hannah Staddon.
Tzarina Mace-Ralph (left), chef on TV series “Below Deck,” with Funky Chef founder and CEO Hannah Staddon.

“Not all female culinary professionals are working in restaurants with strict chef jacket dress codes,” Staddon told WWD. “Many work as personal chefs for high-net-worth individuals or celebrities, or they run a private catering or baking business. They still want to look the part, but they want something that is flattering with flair.” Additionally, customers tell Staddon the playful chef’s jackets are a lively conversation piece.

Funky Chef designs include a shorter length with a rounded bottom, fitted cut with an adjustable back-tie waist, plus side seam splits for more maneuverability. They’re constructed from 97 percent cotton for breathability with added 3 percent stretch for movement and come in sizes from XS to 3XL. Unlike the double row of buttons on a traditional chef’s jacket, Funky Chef jackets have a zip closure “to ensure quick on/off, plus what every girl can never get enough of — pockets.”

There are currently 10 styles, printed with eco-friendly dyes, but three stand out as top sellers, Staddon said. The first is the Wild Side jacket, a nod to traditional whites with a patterned black-and-white accent. Second is Pink Panther, a bold pink jacket with animal spots, and third is Siren, a navy style with a scalloped design accent. Prices start at $129, and custom designs will be available down the road.

“Coming into this, I wondered whether breaking this tradition would actually be accepted, but there’s a lot of chefs in the industry that don’t necessarily want to wear traditional white chef’s jackets, and some may have a sort of ‘imposter syndrome’ because they didn’t do three, five years of culinary school,” says Staddon. “Now they have the freedom to choose something fun — and what girl doesn’t like to have options?”

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