Austin | Dallas | Houston
HTX Good Eats 2012
Greater Houston Restaurant Association
Food for Thought

Sole survivors: Houston's top chefs reveal their favorite footwear for racing around the kitchen

Enlarge
Slideshow
Marene, chef footwear, October 2012, Vanessa O'Donnell
Guess which chef wears a pair of adorable cupcake decorated Toms.? Here she is sandwiched between her fur babies, Maddie and Bela. (See image 7 in this slideshow for answer) Photo by Robyn Arounty
Marene, chef shoes, Randy Evans, cowboy boots, October 2012
Who wears cowboy boots in the kitchen? (See image 8 in this slideshow for the answer) Courtesy Photo
Marene, chef shoes, Brandi Key, Coppa Keds, October 2012
Who wears Coppa Keds in the kitchen? (See image 9 in this slideshow.) Courtesy Photo
Marene, chef shoes, Monica Pope, lace ups, October 2012
Guess who likes lace-ups? (See image 11 in this slideshow) Courtesy Photo
Marene, chef shoes, David Grossman, Branch Water Tavern, Brooks Pure Cadence, tennis shoes, October 2012
Who has a lot of running around a kitchen to do? (See image 12 in this slideshow)   Courtesy Photo
News_Marene_chefs_Vanessa O'Donnell
It's Vanessa O'Donnell, pastry chef who owns Ooh La La Dessert Boutique is the owner of the cupcake-emblazoned Toms shoes.   Courtesy of Courtesy of Ooh La La
News_013_Central Market_10th Anniversary_June 2011_Randy Evans
Chef Randy Evans is scootin' around the kitchen of Havein in his cowboy boots. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Brandi Key, COPPA Ristorante Italiano, chef, spaghetti
Naturally, it's Brandi Key of Coppa Ristorante Italiano who wears the Coppa Keds. "I'm Coppa from head to toe," she says. Brandi Key/Facebook
Chef David Coffman, Katsuya, head shot
Birkenstocks are best for chef David Coffman in the Katsuya kietchen. Recipe4Success/Flickr
News, Monica Pope
Chef Monica Pope of Sparrow likes lace-ups. Photo by Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
News_Sarah_Bourbon Throwdown_David Grossman_Branch Water Tavern
Branch Water Tavern's David Grossman is sporting Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes ‘cause he’s  running big time in that kitchen.
 
Photo by Kimberly Park
Marene, chef footwear, October 2012, Vanessa O'Donnell
Marene, chef shoes, Randy Evans, cowboy boots, October 2012
Marene, chef shoes, Brandi Key, Coppa Keds, October 2012
Marene, chef footwear, October 2012, Chef David Coffman, Katsuya, favorite black Birkis (Birkenstocks), shoes
Marene, chef shoes, Monica Pope, lace ups, October 2012
Marene, chef shoes, David Grossman, Branch Water Tavern, Brooks Pure Cadence, tennis shoes, October 2012
News_Marene_chefs_Vanessa O'Donnell
News_013_Central Market_10th Anniversary_June 2011_Randy Evans
Brandi Key, COPPA Ristorante Italiano, chef, spaghetti
Chef David Coffman, Katsuya, head shot
News, Monica Pope
News_Sarah_Bourbon Throwdown_David Grossman_Branch Water Tavern
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

You’re in a busy kitchen for 12 to 14 hours. You’re on your feet. Standing, hustling through cramped spaces with food and who knows what on the floor under your feet. You are tired, your back hurts and you’re slamming dish after dish for hungry customers.

Oh, and did we mention the temperatures are sizzling and you’re sweating up a storm?

So what do you wear on your feet?

 Frankly, I have no idea why Batali-endorsed shoes would be orange because I seriously doubt he went to UT. But, you know, whatever.

 House slippers might feel nice, but they wouldn’t last a minute in a commercial kitchen.

The chef footwear of choice is often the Croc, a slip-on, slip-resistant rubber shoe that is designed to “lessen the stress of long working days by relieving pressure on your feet, legs and back.” One of the most chef-popular is the Croc Bistro in Mario Batali orange. Frankly, I have no idea why Batali-endorsed shoes would be orange because I seriously doubt he went to UT. But, you know, whatever.

Executive sous chef Tyler Malson of Hotel Icon’s Line and Lariat likes his Crocs because they’re easy to clean (they’re even dishwasher safe!) but not every chef, particularly in Texas, wears these clogs to work.

Clogs to the curb

As part of her recent transformation, award-winning chef Monica Pope not only turned t’afia into Sparrow Bar +Cookshop, but she also burned her apron and kicked her clogs to the curb, choosing to don a new leather apron and lace-up shoes for kitchen duty. They are Italian leather shoes from Aviito in New York’s SoHo.

Her favorite is a pair in blue leather with red laces but she also has a version in brown and mottled beige. I don’t know if it’s the new attire or what, but what she’s sending out of her kitchen is awesomely delicious.

 And Birkis seem to be way more popular with Houston chefs than Crocs: even chef Jason Bessent at Houston Texans Grille loves his black Birkis.

 Over in the kitchen at Katsuya by S+ARCK, chef David Coffman stays with the clog look but prefers Birkis to Crocs. His favorite Birkenstock is a simple black one. Chef Aquiles Chavez at La Fisheria also favors the Birkis, preferably in black or orange. (Perfect for Halloween, we assume.)

And Birkis seem to be way more popular with Houston chefs than Crocs: even chef Jason Bessent at Houston Texans Grille loves his black Birkis.

Jonathan Jones, executive chef of Monarch Bistro at Hotel ZaZa Houston says, “Black rubber Chef Clog made by Keen. When I am out I wear Red Genuine Patent Leather Snake Skin Stacey Adams Wingtips!”

Whoa, styling.

But there are other choices, some creative, some branded, some just plain Texas.

Creative footwear

For instance, take chef Vanessa O’Donnell, as creative as she is in the pastry kitchen with her sweets at Ooh La La, she  is also fanciful when it comes to her shoes. She shows her love of all things cupcake even when it comes to footwear. Check out her adorable cupcake decorated Toms, shown in the picture sandwiched between her fur babies, Maddie and Bela.

And why not show a little restaurant pride and get your toes into some comfy sneaks while working the ovens and grills? That’s just what executive chef Brandi Key of Coppa Ristorante Italiano does.

As Key likes to say: “I'm Coppa from head to toe!”

 Or maybe it’s just because Evans is a Texan and that’s the way he rolls, but his footwear of choice in the kitchen (and pretty much everywhere) is cowboy boots. But that wasn’t always the case. 

And she is, check out her custom-made Keds she orders from Converse.com in navy and yellow leather with the Coppa name on them. Awesome.

But even Keds aren’t enough for a busy chef on the run. Just ask David Grossman at the hot Branch Water Tavern. When he’s crankin’ out his chicken fried oysters, bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp and Harris Ranch New York strip steaks, he’s sporting Brooks Pure Cadence Running Shoes. ‘Cause he’s running big time in that kitchen. 

And then there’s Randy Evans of Haven. Maybe it’s because this farm-to-fork chef spends so much time out in his garden or hunting farmers markets, or maybe it's because his restaurant was built with repurposed wood and equipment. Or maybe it’s just because he’s Texan and that’s the way he rolls, but his footwear of choice in the kitchen (and pretty much everywhere) is cowboy boots. But that wasn’t always the case.

“I started cooking in professional kitchens in 1995 and have worn all sorts of footwear,” Evans explains. “I started with Doc Martens, the sole always split due to the grease, then went to Knapp work shoes and I felt like an old man. I moved to Wolverine work boots but they were way too heavy.

"I switched to Birkenstocks, they were great, but did not support my step. I then started wearing Troentorp Bastad wooden clogs. I lived in them and wore them until the fire at Brennan’s. They were in my office and were lost in the fire.

"So finally I decided to wear Lucchese boots with a crepe sole. They are light, comfortable, and sturdy. I have three pairs I wear; black ostrich, brown pigskin and tan goatskin. My favorites are the ostrich!”

And that’s just how Texas chefs roll.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address