The saying might be ‘clothes maketh the man’, but when it comes to restaurants, shoes undeniably maketh the chef. And while trends might come and go, there is one constant in the restaurant industry and that is a chef’s love for BIRKENSTOCK. We chatted with some of the country’s best (and most hardworking) chefs to find out just what it is about BIRKENSTOCK shoes that makes them such an indispensable kitchen ally.
When dissecting a great chef’s arsenal, knives, Microplanes and plating tweezers are often the first things that come to mind. A good apron and a well-stocked first aid kit, along with burn shield and bright blue plasters, might follow, to prevent or remedy any cuts, burns and other injuries. Depending on the chef, the restaurant and the style of food, there could be any number of secret weapons they rely on to get through the day, but most chefs can agree on one non-negotiable item – premium quality footwear.
Spending upwards of 15 hours standing, chefs learn pretty quickly just what separates a good from a bad shoe in the kitchen. They need to be supportive and comfortable, of course, but they also need to have a firm grip and offer protection should a hot liquid spill or a knife slip off the countertop. If anyone knows about the value of a great pair of shoes, it’s Salsify’s executive chef Ryan Cole, who’s been a fan of the BIRKENSTOCK Boston Super Grip for a while. What’s more, Ryan received the Eat Out BIRKENSTOCK Chefs’ Chef Award. “It’s always been Birkies,” says Ryan. “From when I was a youngster, all my role model chefs would wear them.” Ryan adds that his pair of BIRKENSTOCK shoes have stood the test of time, crediting their long-lasting quality and practicality. He recalls a moment when a slip involving hot chicken stock in the walk-in fridge was saved due to his shoes, “My Birkies stopped me from flying!”
Jess van Dyk, owner and head chef of Eat Out star restaurant Post & Pepper, has similar sentiments when it comes to her BIRKENSTOCK shoe of choice – the classic Boston. She says that supportive footwear isn’t just about ensuring daily comfort, but can also impact a chef’s performance in the long run. “It is an investment for your career and the longevity of your body to hopefully be able to [cook] for years to come without injury,” says Jess. Reflecting on when she opened Post & Pepper, Jess says her pair of BIRKENSTOCK shoes made the arduous process more manageable. “Those very long days of fatigue could have been made worse if I was wearing the wrong shoes,” she explains.
Comfort levels aside, it’s worth noting that choosing BIRKENSTOCK footwear is a sartorial choice as much as a practical one. And for chefs, who spend most of their time in a hot kitchen, covered in burns and scars, there’s something to be said for choosing a shoe that looks nice. Jes Doveton, from Eat Out star restaurant Acid Food & Wine Bar, loves the Birkie clog and agrees that comfortable and supportive shoes are crucial for a chef’s success, but not the only factor for her. “I tend to find style is sometimes more important than being practical,” she admits. “But I have slipped and fallen before injuring my wrist, so anti-slip shoes are very important in a wet and oily kitchen.” Meaning BIRKENSTOCK ticks all the boxes, from a fashion choice, as much as a responsible one. “I think it’s important to be able to have your own sense of style in what you wear to work,” she adds.
For many reasons, it is no surprise that BIRKENSTOCK is the most popular shoe among chefs. “I think it helps that Birkies are cool AF,” says Ryan. But beyond being cool, they’re comfortable and as Jes says, “They always look nice!” So when it comes to stocking your kitchen or knife bag like a pro chef, remember that success works from the bottom up, starting with a really good shoe.
Images: Shavan Rahim