We chatted with Hedley & Bennett Founder, Ellen Bennett, to learn how she’s building a brand influenced by her Mexican heritage and the grit, determination and tenacity instilled by her family.
What inspired you to design and create your incredible one-of-a-kind aprons?
The aprons I wore while working as a line cook were always so boring, poorly made and cheap. When my head chef came into the kitchen one morning and said he was going to put in a new order I immediately stopped him and said - Chef, I have an apron company! It was actually only an idea at the time, but he gave me a chance and I put my ideas in motion- H&B was born.
We read that you moved to Mexico City on your own after graduating from high school. Can you please share with our community why you decided to go to Mexico City and what inspired you to move back to the U.S. and pursue a career in the culinary world?
I couldn't quite find my place in LA and I wanted to explore a different space so I went to Mexico City on my own and what was supposed to be a 2 month trip turned into 4 years, attending culinary school, and finding my way and place in life. After 4 years, I felt it was time to return to LA to pursue my culinary dreams and that's when I began working at Providence where I would eventually start Hedley & Bennett.
You are also an author! What was the inspiration behind your book; “Dream First, Details Later”?
When I started Hedley & Bennett, almost 10 years ago, I didn’t have an MBA and I wasn’t an experienced business executive. As a Latin, female founded business the chips were slightly stacked against me. But I forged my own path, started my company at 25 with $300 dollars and built it the old school way, brick by brick, street by street, account by account and eventually turned it into a true business. So I wrote Dream First, Details Later to inspire others and teach them the attitude it takes to build something out of nothing and remind people it IS POSSIBLE and you don't have to have every resource, investor and perfect business plan to get something started.
How has Mexican culture impacted your journey and experience through your life and career?
My Mexican heritage is always present in everything I do, from the vibrant colors I surround myself with, the recipes my grandmother used to make, and the influence my mother instilled on me to hustle, hustle, hustle and the sheer grit and tenacity my Mexican aunts embody and raised me with.
Are there any special social causes that you and/or Hedley & Bennett support? Please share.
There are so many amazing organizations that we support at Hedley & Bennett, many of which I am personally involved with. We were one of the first supporters and partners of Alex’s Lemonade, raising money to fight pediatric cancer, and we work closely with World Central Kitchen, No Kid Hungry and the LA Food Bank to help feed those in need. More recently, as a result of Covid-19, we pivoted our apron business to make masks with a Buy-1, Donate-1 initiative and have donated hundreds of thousands of masks to frontline workers, restaurant coalitions, health providers, education institutions and organizations like Baby 2 Baby to help fight the pandemic.
As we celebrate this month, do you have any favorite Mexican traditions? As someone who knows their way around a kitchen, any favorite dishes?
Some of my favorite recipes are from my grandmother and mother, it ranges from Ponche which I make EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY :), molletes, calabazitas tiernas, caldo de pollo, tinga de pollo, etc.
Can you share with our community your tips on best gifts to give from Hedley & Bennett newest collection?
We are so excited about this year’s holiday gift options. We have created some really amazing new aprons for every kind of chef, griller, and baker! We’ll be launching new aprons almost every week through the holidays, and have special bundles with aprons, kitchen essentials, and other great items packaged together for the perfect gift! We also have an exciting collab coming up with Grateful Dead as well as Sesame Street before the end of the year.
What’s next for Hedley & Bennett?
We won’t stop until everyone has one of our beautifully crafted aprons in their home! But we will also be expanding into some new categories to provide an even greater kitchen experience. We get so many requests from our customers that they want more H&B quality products to use so we’re working hard to develop new ways to use H&B in the kitchen, and at home.