Kate Meier and Trent Taher are living the dream; their BA Craftmade customizable aprons for professional chefs are being snapped up by every kitchen in the metro as well as across the country. Meier and Taher also noticed that the chefs and restaurant staffs they served needed help with more than just aprons. They noticed first-hand the depression, anxiety, and other mental and physical illnesses brought on by the long and grueling hours for which the service industry is known—plus, the huge numbers of service workers with no health insurance or regular care.
Taher says, “We wanted to create a fund for the industry because there was no doubt that we wanted to do something to give back and give that special touch to those who take care of all of us.”
Taher says the issue is personal to him. “A friend of mine growing up ... He had elbow surgery and that physical limitation kept him from working,” Taher says. “He struggled with depression, anxiety. This focus and discussion on the mental health side became a priority and focus for me.”
Meier says it goes beyond mental illness. Service teams are "struggling because there are addiction issues. The job itself is a lot of adrenaline ups and downs.”
Their special-edition apron, part of their new Project Black & Blue, was inspired by Philadelphia chef Eddie Konrad. “He had me design his dream apron. It was a black apron with purple trim,” Meier says. "He said he’s an executive chef now, but to get that point there is so much bruising to get there…the color signifies the effort to get to that point.”
“You can see it and spot it,” she says. “That blue strapping we are keeping specifically for that apron design.”
The bright blue promotes conversation.
Taher says, “They’re openly acknowledging, ‘It’s OK to be not OK,’ and they’re putting themselves out there as a resource. That awareness aspect can start a conversation.”
In addition to donating 50 percent of revenue from the special black and blue aprons, t-shirts and hats, Taher says the response to the fund has been extraordinary across the country, with fundraisers and events in Philadelphia, Iowa, Seattle and Minneapolis since the initiative launched last year.
Now, it's time to get it the money into the hands of those who need it most. There is a nomination form on Craftmade Aprons’ website. “That’s how we intend and expect this to be a sustainable program that is for the community,” Taher says. "We hope we have successfully created a vehicle to start the conversation and get the financial support they need without the red tape that goes with it. It’s not just about buying an apron. It’s really about what it stands for and the conversation it invites and opens.”
To learn more about Project Black & Blue, visit bacraftmadeaprons.squarespace.com and click on Project Black & Blue.