“Have you ever worn a face mask for eight hours straight?” chef Dennis Leary of Sentinel sandwich fame asked back in March, in a cast-aside comment that was enough to make anyone stop breathing for a moment. Everyday eaters might only don masks for an hour or two, for a quick trip to the store or walk in the neighborhood, but essential workers had to get comfortable fast, especially cooks who work in hot kitchens. Here are a few favorite masks from food pros in San Francisco, along with the outfitters who like to keep them in style.
Washable face masks
Michelle Hernandez of the upcoming Le Dix Sept always ties back her hair in cute bandeaus, and she actually co-founded Bon Bon Bandeaux with a designer friend. When the pandemic hit, they spun to making masks out of 100-percent cotton, which are “breathable for kitchen life,” says the pastry chef. Anything else “can be too stifling in a hot kitchen.” There is a slit in the top, for anyone who wants to slide in a filter. Devastatingly, the banana print is currently sold out, but the cherry print is back in stock. And Brandon Jew from Mister Jiu’s is peacing out in the candy apple red.
Fabric mask set (3 masks included)
Gillian Shaw of Black Jet Baking Co. was pleasantly surprised when a regular dropped off a package of these color-block masks from Baggu, the reusable bag company. Shaw says she hates any masks that go behind the ears, and loves the single continuous tie that runs through these, which is easy to adjust even if you’re elbow deep in American buttercream.
Color-a-day mask kit (7 masks included)
Shaw also found joy in this rainbow of masks from designer Dana Haim, who runs a textile shop here in San Francisco. For anyone who has lost all sense of space and time in quarantine, there’s a different color of thread for every day of the week.
Cotton face masks (coming soon)
Dominique Crenn was rocking face masks well before the pandemic. When the three-star chef was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she promptly made masks part of her signature style (they pair well with Adidas kicks, right?). Crenn has an inside hookup, sourcing masks directly from designer friend Romina Savastano in Argentina, who also supplies Atelier Crenn with aprons and jackets. It looks like a website is in the works, so keep an eye out.
Cotton face mask
Aplat makes origami-inspired casserole carriers and wine totes, all manufactured locally in the Bay, with zero waste. (SFMOMA, Heath Ceramics, and several wineries all carry them in their shops.) And now, they’re making beautifully tucked and pleated masks in sturdy cotton canvas, which softens with more washes, and includes a slit to slip in a coffee filter.
Japanese indigo masks
Laureano Faedi handcrafts leather and textiles out of his shop in Hayes Valley, but there is a restaurant connection — his parents owned Alegrias, the Spanish restaurant in the Marina, for many years. Faedi is now sourcing beautiful Japanese indigo fabrics and hand-sewing them into tailored masks, complete with a wire to tidily pinch at the nose.
Cotton face masks
Cayson is a local design company that outfits many restaurants across the city with chef coats, aprons, and now masks. They have behind-the-ear and back-tie options, which are affordable and hardworking in the best way possible.
The “wake up and fight” mask
Never least, Hedley & Bennett, the LA apron authority, is now making well-tailored masks with pro cooks in mind. They say they tapped a surgeon to review the curved design, which includes a pocket to add a filter. Matt Horn, the wildly popular pitmaster, often wears the aprons, and confirms that the masks are fitted, comfy, and cool.