Almost 1,200 miles away from the Twin Cities in south Philadelphia, chef Eddie Konrad, one of Justin Sutherland’s competitors on the most recent season of Top Chef, dons one of Minnesota’s locally created BA Craftmade Aprons. Like a good number of food service employees who have fallen in love with the brand’s durability and industry-tailored function, he also wanted it personalized, requesting purple trim.
“He’s at the top level of doing his job being an executive chef,” BA Craftmade Aprons founder Kate Meier says, “but he said he knows the bruising that he took to get to that level … and all of the mental and physical pull on a person to get there to do that.”
Konrad’s experience is just one of the many stories of overworked and self-sacrificing service workers that made its way to Meier, who gave a name to BA Craftmade’s new cause, Project Black & Blue.
Project Black & Blue is a series of items—including a professional-grade apron—colored to symbolize the mental and physical bruises food service employees undergo, and 50 percent of the revenue is donated to a fund made to support those in the community who are combating mental, physical, or financial difficulties. Individuals are identified through a nomination form on BA Craftmade’s website, and money can be used for needs such as a new pair of glasses, getting help with addiction, or, like in one of the stories Meier heard, providing financial support for a health care procedure and half-year recovery period.
As with most product-based funds, you may wonder how funding will be sustained. (The merch is great, but no one needs 20 Project Black & Blue T-shirts.) Business partner Trent Taher says that he and Meier have been wonderfully surprised that several of the project’s advocates have already hosted benefit events for the cause, and he hopes to use his experience in the nonprofit world to help create a sustainable model.
The project is about 45 days old now after starting in early August, and as it grows, Meier and Taher also hope to sponsor events such as group meditation and become a way to connect individuals to additional resources. The first goals of the project have already been achieved, though: awareness and advocacy.
Local chefs Ann Ahmed, Nettie Colón, JD Fratzke, Justin Sutherland, and Yia Vang all count themselves among the official project advocates, and other chefs across the country have also joined as bannermen who are willing to talk about their journey and how they maintain their mental health. While the project was launched with chefs, Taher and Meier invite anyone who wants to support the cause to join in, too.
“The project isn’t about buying the apron and just moving on; it’s really what it represents,” Taher says. “People see and recognize the wearer as a resource for someone to come out and say that it’s OK not to be OK.”