Talking with Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo About Vans’ New Line of Shoes for Kitchen Workers

01/29/2016 at 05:55 PM ET



Of all the equipment essential to running a kitchen, shoes probably get the shortest shrift. Knives are shiny and sharp, and there are all kinds of neat gadgets to catch people’s eyes, but the only attention a kitchen worker’s shoes get is typically negative. (Mario Batali‘s Crocs, for example.)

Vans is working to change that. The California shoe brand is partnering with James Beard Award-nominated CA chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo for a new line of shoes aimed specifically at kitchen workers.

RELATED: Orange Crocs Are Discontinued, so Mario Batali Buys 200 Pairs

The shoes are built with specially coated water-and-dirt-resistant canvas uppers to reject spills and enhanced, extra-cushioned footbeds to provide comfort during long shifts on your feet. Four classic vans models have been subjected to the upgrade: The Authentic, Sk8-Hi, Classic Slip-On and the Old Skool.

“I worked as a busboy at Marie Callender’s one winter break during college, and that was more than enough for me,” Vans GM and North America VP Doug Palladini, tells PEOPLE. “But it did teach me immense respect for restaurant workers both front and back of house: The work ethic of these people was stunning, and ever since. I have gone out of my way to show appreciation for good service. During that experience, I distinctly remember ruining a few good pairs of Vans slip-ons that started to smell like aging cornbread and three bean soup.”

“I grew up only having one pair of shoes for the whole school year,” Shook, chef at L.A.’s Animal and Son of a Gun, says. “And I would pretty much get Vans every time. Both of us grew up surfing and a lot of our personal relationship outside of the kitchen was based off common interest, so it’s fair to say our history with Vans and the cultures it represents runs deep. We first left our first meeting with Doug like two kids.”

“Jon and I have always worn Vans,” Dotolo adds. “Mostly the Slip-Ons because they’re easy to get on and easy to get off. I used to go to the local surf shop and get Vans custom-made when I was a kid. I would get them in like corduroy and canvas, yellow and pink; whatever I could make, I would get. I used to be obsessed.”

RELATED: The Essential Equipment for a Well-Stocked Kitchen

Keep an eye out for the Vans/Jon & Vinny collaboration in stores, and check out one of the chefs’ restaurants in Los Angeles if you’re in the City of Angels.

—Alex Heigl, @alex_heigl

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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