We always ask our friends, “What do you pair with your denim?” For Egyptian chef Laila Gohar, it’s denim + her faithful cooking apron. The history of that equation, as told by Laila…
I’ve been interested in cooking ever since I was a child, when we would have dinner as a family every night. I was always poking around, getting into the pots and pans while my parents improvised recipes. No one was a chef, but that’s what stuck with me—food makes memories because it’s about the senses and being together.
I started throwing dinners for friends when I moved to New York City. We would cram into our tiny apartments or onto our little terraces. It was so informal. Sometimes we didn’t have chairs or proper utensils, but it was a reason to spend time together.
I Googled recipes nonstop but never followed them because I wanted to make big, beautiful dishes like the meals I grew up with. In 2013, I started my company, Sunday Supper, and rented 2,000 square feet of kitchen space in Harlem. It’s my private and creative space, so I dress accordingly: those restaurant clogs (you know the ones), a white T-shirt and jeans. Nothing feels more natural than cooking in jeans and that’s why my favorite apron is made of denim too. A great apron is a chef’s armor and uniform.
I really love getting to work with artists. Translating their visions into food—and making it taste good—is the most conceptual part of my work: clouds of dry ice, a volcano made of rice that explodes with Cuban beans—you name it, I’ll find a way to make it happen…even if it means calling a friend who works in special effects.
The first piece of clothing I bought myself was a pair of jeans in the ’90s. Now, I own too many denim shirts, but I love the fabric and texture. My goal is always to feel comfortable in my own skin. Clean, simple, organic—that’s how I approach my cooking too.
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Photography by Angi Welsch