Ellen Bennett talks aprons and tequila and everything in between

By Lindsey Tauer June 19, 2019 

Ellen Bennett has worked in some of LA's finest restaurants but when it came time for her to pursue launching her own brand, she didn't hang up her apron, she redesigned it. Now Hedley & Bennett is one of the hottest apron brands out there, coveted by both professional chefs and home cooks alike. You can see them everywhere from the Bon Appetit test kitchen, to David Chang's restaurants. We talked to Ellen about the #BennettBrunches series she hosts, fun ways to incorporate more color into your dinner party and her epic wedding in Mexico City.

Q

On a scale of Oscar the Grouch to Martha Stewart, how much do you like to host at home?

A

Oh my God. I’m like Martha Stewart meets Anthony Bourdain on steroids. Big time. But instead of everything in its right place, it's like an organized chaos. That's very much how I like to host and I do it often. I would say I probably host three times a month, which, considering the schedule I carry, is quite a bit. It's anything from a brunch or a dinner, a picnic in the backyard or a celebration of sorts. Our house it a very warm, welcoming space that we make feel very approachable. When you enter our house, it's your house. It's very much my Mexican heritage really coming out.

Q

Tell us about the #BennettBrunches Series you host?

A

I choose 15 to 20 people that don't know each other. They all are badasses in their own field, whether they're an architect or a chef or whatever. They come together, they all throw on aprons. This week, we did smocks because we just launched smocks. Everybody wears a smock, everybody brings their own ingredients, and everybody cooks together. So it's very much out of people's comfort zones but before you know it, everyone's befriended each other.

It all comes together in a really beautiful way because you've got 15 to 20 very different foods, and perspectives. You might have palak paneer and then you have shakshuka, but then someone makes pancakes and someone's like, “I don't know how to cook so I picked up donuts.” It's very fun.

Hedley & Bennett | Bashed
Hedley & Bennett by Mary Costa

Q

You are known for your love of color. Do you have tricks for incorporating more color into a dinner party?

A

There's this brand called Graf Lantz here in LA that I love. They have these colorful felt trivets that I like to put on the table. And I always use our Hedley & Bennett napkins which are typically just solid colors. Then I will always always always have lemons in a big bowl nearby, which just adds color to the room or the kitchen.

I also think another really great way to add color to a tablescape is with solid clumps of flowers. I'll go to Trader Joe's and I'll pick up three or four sets of Gerberas Daisies. So I'll have, yellow, pink, and red and I’ll group them together but in three separate mason jars. It adds serious pops of color without it feeling overwhelming.

I also have these bamboo cups that are colorful. So the entire table can be all white and black with your foundational pieces that are very simple and clean. And then you have the pops of color from the cups, or maybe from the flower clumps, or the napkins. And then, obviously always on the food. I'm a huge advocate of adding citrus to frickin everything. Probably my Mexican heritage coming out again. So that's always a nice way to add color to a plate and with herbs, fresh herbs are very, very, very colorful.

That's what I like: big batches of color, because it's easier to look at. It's not overwhelming and makes you feel happy. It’s a very simple approach to incorporating color into dinner land.

Q

You've done some amazing apron and apparel collabs at Hedley & Bennett. Do you have a dream brand collab in mind?

A

Oh, yeah. I've outfitted both of them but I think it'd be really fun to do a collab with Chrissy Tiegen and David Chang. I think both of them are a really fun, interesting smash up. I actually outfit Momofuku restaurants with our gear but I think doing a dedicated Chrissy Tiegen X David Chang X Hedley collab could be really cool.

Ellen Bennett | Hedley & Bennett
Ellen Bennett

Q

You said you often gather a bunch of people together that don't know each other,  do you have a fun way that you kind of break the ice and get people mingling?

A

Definitely, it’s throwing aprons on people and then making them having to cook together. It’s a really good icebreaker. If people don't know how to cook, don't worry about it. Just assign them to serving everybody drinks, and then everybody gets to know them because they're handing out little mimosas and that creates a connection. And the truth is; everyone wants to connect, they just don't know how sometimes.

Q

And speaking of drinks, what's your go to cocktail? Either making at home or ordering out?

A

I love a martini with extra olives, dry, dirty, and with gin. I love that and then and then I love bourbon and cigars. I'm like secretly an old man or an old woman or maybe just both. I don't drink all that often, because quite frankly, I don't have time to be hungover. But when I do those are my top choices. And then I would say Casa Dragones Tequila. It's insane. It's a Mexican brand with a female CEO and founder. It's the best tequila I've ever had. Period hands down. No question. Oh, and I also love Yola, mezcal. I'm half Mexican, and half English so I just gave you my English choices, and then my Mexican choices.

Q

Do you have a favorite host or hostess gift? I would imagine an apron would be a very welcome 🙂

A

Yes, I definitely love to bring aprons or depending on who it is, I might bring our chef socks that are like compression socks, but they're super fun. And they have fun sayings on the bottom of the sole. And then I also love bringing flowers. I think flowers are just a really nice touch. They're simple and it just it goes a long way. I also think it's super important to write a handwritten card, call me old school, but my one of my best friends owns Sugar Paper in LA and she really taught me the value of a handwritten card, it's a special thing.

Q

Okay, you're stranded on a dinner party desert island, and you can have one beverage one appetizer and one dessert. What do you do?

A

Okay, so for dessert, I would have an entire pint of Jeni's ice cream. I really love her. [Flavor?] It's like rainbow sorbet or something. Or, her salted peanut butter chocolate chip flakes. Or her sweet cream. Her sweet cream might be my favorite thing ever. And also her lemon ice cream is really incredible. So one of those four depending on what's available when the world is ending, and I'm on that island.

For beverage, I actually want a fresh Thai coconut where you can scrape the inside and it's all gooey and squishy. That would be my beverage of choice for sure. I love that and I love the scooping. It's a double whammy.

And then for an app, I would say: ceviche.

Q

Do you have a favorite party playlist?

A

The one we made for my wedding, it has things like Portugal the man on it.

Hedley & Bennett | Bashed
Ellen & Casey's Wedding in Mexico City

Q

Tell us about the best party you've been to?

A

I'm going to be a little bit biased and say my wedding. It was like a three day explosion. It wasn't even a wedding, it was like a culinary adventure. Basically, we took 230 of our best people, our loveliest family and friends and we gave them a tour of Mexico City. It was as if you're going with friends for the weekend instead, we did it with everybody. So that was beyond epic because we didn't treat it like some mass produced activity, we really wanted it to feel like you're just hanging out with Ellen and Casey, running around the city.

Q

If you could invite seven people to a dinner party dead or alive who would it be?

A

Oh, wow. I would say definitely: Anthony Bourdain, Gandhi, Oprah, Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Child, Winston Churchill, and My grandfather Hedley.

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Lindsey Tauer

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.

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