By chefs for the chefs. Service works is clearly a love letter to the industry. What inspired you to start Service Works and what does the brand stand for?
I've worn chef pants for years, having worked in kitchens growing up. They've got the same appeal as a pair of trackies for me, chill and comfy. They were also my go to as I could help myself to them from work at the time, my mates ended up wearing them for that reason too. They're nice to skate in and have a unique baggy and flowy quality to them, I basically ended up wearing them all the time. I went to Japan a couple of years ago and came across a load of brands and well regarded stores pushing chef pants in a highly considered way, as the Japanese are amazing at doing with any niche item. Annoyingly, they were catering to the Asian market and I'm 6'1 so that didn't work for me. They also weren't interacting with the food scene and were more of a fashion product which felt corny and gimmicky. I basically saw both sides of either "trendy" chef pants or soulless catalogue brands selling mass produced pairs. I wanted to create a nice fitting, well made trouser and actually interact and support the industry, so I decided Service Works was the way.
Starting in 2020, Service Works is still a relatively young brand, how has the initial reaction been?
Yeah it's been crazy - there were lots of times during the first sampling stage that I thought I might have gone nuts, and no one else would be bothered about chef pants. Thankfully, people keep buying all of them and we have none left! I panicked when lockdown came in and the industry ground to a halt, I was going to wait until hospitality could get going again to launch it - glad I didn't do that. The industry is unique in that the level of passion seems to far exceed those in other fields. The people who lost work or were lucky enough to be furloughed, got busy and created some beautiful things. Obviously, the devastation lockdown caused to hospitality is about the worst thing that could happen to those individuals, but the drive was still there. People forged careers for themselves which they may have otherwise never realised. Also, the trackie element came in and people leaned towards comfy clothes which I think helped. I'm endlessly grateful for the response and can't wait to keep levelling the product up and making it the best it can possibly be.
What is a dream product that you would like to create for service works?
If a restaurant counts as a product, then that! Curating residencies from chefs I love, that'd be a dream. Giving talents from across the globe a platform to run the show. No young chefs can afford the crazy costs of opening a restaurant. Without a tonne of money or the pressure and compromise of investment, it's impossible to do, especially in London. Failing that, I'd settle for creating a run of organic, cotton canvas chef pants which are made entirely in the UK. Maybe a dream, maybe a spoiler alert. I want the product to be the best it can. This year we're moving production of our classic chef pants to London which is something I've always dreamed of. We're also going to be constructing our trade pants using polyester created from recycled plastic bottles which has been a goal since day one. Now that we have support from our customers, we're able to pick and choose suppliers and can hit the minimums needed to work with the best. Similar to getting decent trade accounts as a chef/restaurant, you need the track record and momentum to get a foot in the door with the finest!
What’s the link between Service Works and Blacksmith Store?
Blacksmith Store is my main business, I sell a selection of hard-wearing garments sourced from across the globe, alongside the in-house brand; Blacksmith. I import a load of product from the USA which is intended for carpenters, painters and other such fellas who require clothing that is built to last everyday use. I'd call it workwear but that word gets thrown around a lot and sounds lame. I work with suppliers who have been in their particular field for many more years than I've been alive, and make very good products for working people, at a price everyone can afford. I wanted Service Works to follow the same sensibilities of a considered product that is made fairly, priced fairly and supports people in a particular trade. Service Works wouldn't exist without Blacksmith and it's amazing customers. Shout out all of them each and every time!
What makes a good chef’s trouser?
It's really subjective but for me they need to be baggy and comfortable, long enough to cuff, light and breathable but still with a bit of rigidity for steez. Beyond face value stuff, they need to be well made with an environmental and social focus. I'm probably more obsessive over every aspect of a trouser than your average chef/human, but thankfully I'm totally unemployable and get to think about it all the time for a living.
Birkenstock clogs, chequered trousers, deep bags under your eyes. There's something uniquely recognisable about chefs style, that has never been showcased by a brand. Did you hope to hope to capture this when you launched Service Works?
You forgot the burnt arms and pints of squash! I'm more keen to work with chefs than stage some kind of look, If I ever start using models for chef trouser shoots then we have a problem. The only shoot we've been able to do so far is me with a mop on my head, in a walk-in fridge. I guess a good comparison would be a skateboard company shooting product on anyone other than those it's originally intended for. As soon as I see that, I'm out. Cooking is like skateboarding in that, whoever works the hardest and has the best style wins! Whether you're a home cook or professional, I want to speak for everyone and make it about the passion and purpose. I want it to be inclusive and even if you somehow hate cooking and just like baggy trousers, you still appreciate what it's about. When people categorise products as "lifestyle" it usually means there's no actual substance, I'm here for the grafters, bags under your eyes or not!
You’ve already partnered with Cornerstone, what collaborations can we expect to see in 2021?
Yeah, it was great to work with Tom, such an honour and I feel super lucky to have been able to. I'm currently working on two more collaborations, the first is with the absolute best skateboard company in the UK and second is one of the amazing restaurants mentioned below, that I've been obsessed with for years. Couldn't be happier to be able to work with all three and I'm very hyped! It's hard not to expose how much of a fanboy I am and to try to act like a normal person when I speak to them, I didn't think it would be on the cards. Details incoming!
Tell us about a dish that reminds you of your childhood?
I was going to try and think of something really profound and sincere about a childhood dish, but as I write this, I just had a baked potato for dinner and have decided that's it. I've probably eaten a jacky p once a week for my entire life, Francis Mallmann would say something like "I am still discovering them." The nuances change with each oven in each place i've ever lived, endless combos and seasonal takes. I'm talking shit, but I've steadily consumed them for nearly 30 years and although they never went away, they still feel nostalgic and take me back to any given weeknight as a kid. God bless the jacket potato.
Where are some of your favourite places to eat, in London and the rest of the UK?
Way too many to mention but in London; The River Cafe, Ciao Bella, Forza Win, Koya, St John, Roti King, Peckham Bazaar, Black Axe Mangal, FM Mangal, Mangal 2 and all the grafting, quality Mangals of the city.
Rest of the UK: Carters of Moseley in Birmingham, Fitzroy in Fowey, Tillingham in Rye, Timberyard in Edinburgh, Libertine Burger around the Midlands, The Bell Inn in Langford.