City Bites

CITY BITES INSIDER: Ottawa chefs line up for one-of-a-kind aprons


Matt Somers’ one-of-a-kind Wove & Grain aprons, for chefs, gardeners, woodworkers, flower arrangers…

Meet Matt Somers. The one-time baker behind the luxe cakes at It’s A Matter of Cake has reinvented himself as a custom apron maker. And the city’s fashion-forward chefs are lining up for his one-of-a-kind aprons.

Who better to design aprons than a chef? Dessert lovers will remember Matt Somers as the pastry genius behind It’s A Matter of Cake, which he gave up when things became too hectic between his and wife Erin Carmichael’s businesses (she runs Full Bloom Floral Design). Now Somers, who calls himself a lifelong “fixer and putterer,” has unveiled Wove & Grain, which sees him designing good-looking custom aprons for chefs (and flower arrangers and woodworkers) around town. Strong and stylin’, each apron features a hand-sewn, adjustable leather harness so it fits just so. Given the trend toward open kitchens, a chef’s got to look good!

Matt Somers wearing his Wove & Grain apron

Name names! Who are some of the early adopters of your custom aprons?
Matt [Carmichael] and Jordan [Holley] from El Camino. Then there’s Kyrn Stein from Social. Chef Trish Larkin, who used to work at Black Cat, got one for her and her three cooks. Steve [Mitton] from Murray Street. Chefs see my apron on other chefs, try it on, and buy it.

Why aprons?
I’ve always enjoyed puttering and building things. When most people think of aprons, they think of a cook, but it’s so much bigger than that. Artists wear aprons, barbers wear aprons, florists wear aprons, wood-workers wear aprons… I designed the first apron for my wife, Erin [Carmichael]. As a florist, she’s always getting dirty. She was looking for an apron that fit well and that she felt pretty in. We couldn’t find any, so I decided to design one.

Why the name Wove & Grain?
Because I love working with material and also building with wood.

Did you know right away that there’d be a market for custom aprons?
I hoped! Aprons tend to be one size fits all, but we’re not all built one size. Adjustable aprons make a lot of sense.

A Wove & Grain apron, designed and created by Matt Somers

The popularity of open kitchens must be good for business, too.
For sure. The restaurant industry isn’t just white coats and pants anymore. With all the open kitchens these days, it’s weird if you don’t see the chef — and since the chefs know they’re being watched, they want to look good.

What was the process?
I saw an apron with an adjustable cross-back strap that I knew would work well because it wouldn’t pull on the neck. I bought some leather straps and began experimenting with different straps and hardware. The first one looked a little too S&M! I spent a year working with chef Jordan at El Camino to finalize a good strap design.

Matt Somers of Wove & Grain … with a dog

What about the fabric portion of the apron?
Quite a few are denim. There’s also canvas. And chambray, which is a lighter denim with a bit more character to it. I’m experimenting with a wax canvas apron for some woodworkers I know.

Some of your aprons have patterns on the back side, which is hidden. How come?
It’s a little bit of fun. Some people may want some colour on their apron, but they don’t necessarily want to be “in your face” with it. I think of it like an old-school smoking jacket. They were very formal on the outside, but for the inside a man might choose a purple silk or paisley fabric.

Any unusual requests so far for the “hidden side”?
Ninja turtles! I’m still looking for the fabric.

Do you make each apron by hand?
Yes. Each one takes about five hours to make. I cut and sew the fabric and make the straps. I essentially buy half a cowhide at a time, cut the straps, and punch the holes. I dye the leather by hand.

Any chance you’ll ever go back to pastry-making?
Actually, I still make desserts at El Camino, including my version of keylime pie and churros.

Good to know!