Chef’s whites must be spotless. Their reputation depends on it! An immaculate jacket highlights the rigor of the person wearing it, implying perfection in their method. It is nothing short of a symbol of purity in the world of haute cuisine, and Bragard has known this for a long time. The family business was founded in 1933 in the Vosges département, the birthplace of French textile know-how, which was enjoying its heyday at the time. At the start, the company produced uniforms for different professions, including painters, mechanics, and food workers.
Its collaboration with Paul Bocuse in the 1970s boosted the brand’s reputation in the restaurant industry. This gastronomical figurehead required a uniform befitting his status. Gilles Bragard, the founder’s grandson, and his wife Monica designed an item that has since become iconic, the Grand Chef jacket. Woven in 100% resilient, comfortable, breathable Supima cotton – American-grown Pima cotton, also referred to elsewhere as “Egyptian cotton” – this jacket has since become a global standard. Its production process is patented, much like Coca-Cola’s. And in an innovative twist, the jacket boasts a double buttoning system, enabling the wearer to alternately overlap the front panels – highly practical in case of spatters!
In an effort to promote its clothing in the United States, its second-biggest market after France, Bragard approached the many French chefs who set out to conquer America in the 1980s, including Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Eric Ripert. “They became our ambassadors,” says Ludovic Sabot, general manager of Bragard U.S.A. For Ripert, the owner of Le Bernardin in Manhattan, the brand created a special jacket with a blue trim – a nod to the Antibes-born chef’s seafood specialties and his Mediterranean roots.
Some 40 years later, Bragard jackets are just as popular. They are reinvented through collections launched with leading names in the haute-couture and culinary worlds. And when it is not dressing the staff at palace hotels such as the Plaza Athénée, the Crillon, and the Ritz, the French company supplies participants on the U.S. show Hell’s Kitchen, hosted by Gordon Ramsay, employees at the Ladurée tearooms, and the kitchen brigade at the Modern, the two Michelin-star restaurant at MoMA in New York City.
Since the American group Chef Works’ acquisition of Bragard Europe, the company is pursuing its development. Its jackets are also worn by students at cooking schools all over the world, including Vatel, Ritz Escoffier and Ferrandi in Paris, the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, and Cornell University in the United States. An ideal way to keep the brand youthful. While chefs’ hats are still a mainstay in its catalog, Bragard has gradually started adding denim and leather to its collections. It has even dared to make a bold move away from white, the iconic color worn by chefs for more than two centuries.
Younger generations looking to stand out prefer flecked gray, midnight blue, or two-tone jackets. Employees at upmarket bistros can choose between checked catering shirts and aprons made using eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, linen, wood cellulose textiles, and polyester from recycled plastic bottles, all produced at the Bragard factory in Epinal. Even those looking for baseball caps to match their aprons will find something suitable! This variety has been more than enough to win over new customers – including the teams at several McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago!