by Dan Clapson and Diana Ng

Did you know that two of this country’s premier culinary-focused apparel companies are based out of Calgary? Now, we think that’s pretty damn cool! Whether you’re craving a new outfit for your next date with your kitchen or looking for a last minute gift for that food crazed person in your life, here are two companies you should probably know about.

Medium Rare Chef Apparel

Sometimes you never know how quickly a simple idea can evolve. Back in the late 2000s, local chef and owner of Brasserie and Winebar Kensington, Cam Dobranski, decided he was less than enamoured with the standard chef jacket. White and boxy, fairly standard issue…if you’re ever met the man, this sort of uniform certainly does not “fit” Dobranski –well, when it comes to personality. With the help of a (then) girlfriend’s mother and her stitching skills, a simple apron with a few design updates was the spark that would eventually turn into the culinary flame that Medium Rare Chef Apparel is today.

“That moment actually came very early on for us, almost from the beginning people really latched onto the Medium Rare name and our branding.” explains Dobranski’s business partner, Andrew Dallman. “We really didn’t have to explain to the industry what we were doing, there was immediate understanding and genuine excitement for our concept.”

Since it’s inception in 2008, Medium Rare has evolved significantly. Originally, the chefswear line was primarily that, for the industry. As interest in the brand – which now offers anything from heavy duty aprons with leather accents, graphic t-shirts and hats to knife bags, knife belts and kitchen shoes – grew, Dobranski and Dallman saw industry professionals from all over the globe placing orders for aprons, t-shirts and the like. Today, you can walk into restaurants in Vancouver, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal and even overseas in countries like Spain and Denmark.

“We truly believe that MRCA is unique in the marketplace, the upcoming release of our new apparel lines will reinforce this position,” says Dallman on the new items that are premiering this month. “We think it’s great to see other new and creative chef lines emerging now. It only serves to validate what we set out to do back in 2008.”

Food On Your Shirt

Any creative mind will tell you that it’s not easy making a lucrative career out of flexing that creativity, especially when it’s spans across so many areas: food and cooking, visual arts and language. But, Lamielle and Bergman, both active in the Calgary food industry, have foundthe perfect union of their passions in making t-shirts that feature clever puns, jokes and unique illustrations.

“I have a print background and Pierre has illustration and design skills, and we both love food,” says Bergman. “We thought about what we can do together that’s super fun [and agreed] it absolutely had to do with food. That’s when we decided: we’ll start making food apparel.”

The idea wasn’t apparent when Lamielle was designing t-shirts for Kevin Kent of Knifewear, but it did give him and Bergman the spark when they knew they wanted to do something bigger together.

“We did our business plan, I did the research into the type of equipment that would best suit our goals and we just went for it,” says Bergman. “We just jumped off the edge and started the business, purchased the equipment, made the space in our basement and off we went.”

The approach to creating their t-shirts is humourous, a bit daring and at the heart of it, it’s really what they would enjoy for themselves. But, don’t mistake their drive and excitement for carelessness. These smart cookies have sought out the best direct-to-garment equipment that can give them the most intricate results, sourced materials with the highest quality. Their products are made to order, which means they’re not holding a shipping container full of inventory from overseas.

Similar to the way it is for food, the support within the local community is important to the duo. If you’ve been to events put on by Top Chef Canada or the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance, you’ve probably noticed chefs and organizers outfitted in apparel by Food On Your Shirt, and the pair sources Canadian and local materials for their products as often as possible.

“We are particular about what we’re printing on. We found a good line of tea towels out of Vancouver, and we love working with Cam [Dobranski] from Medium Rare,” says Bergman.

With over 200 ideas and more flooding in, Lamielle and Bergman have a lot of work to do and are focused on getting their designs out there, possibly expanding into a wider range of apparel.

“We’re just designing shirts we really like and want to wear, and we design shirts not necessarily thinking if they’ll sell,” says Lamielle.

Bergman chimes in, “We did one for Christmas, with Darth Vader sitting at the table with Luke Skywalker and he says, ‘Dark meat?’”

Like any good joke, you just have to be there. In this case, you just have to wear the shirts!

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