Off Whites: Chef Jackie Carnesi
by Emily Wilson July 28, 2021
In Off Whites, we talk to chefs and other restaurant folks with a knack for style on what they like to wear in the kitchen and out. First up, Jackie Carnesi, who some of you may know from her six years behind the pass at the OG Roberta’s in Bushwick where she rose the ranks in the back-of-house to eventually become executive chef — dishing out salumi, salads, and charred-to-perfection pies. These days, she’s working the line at Otis as she gears up for her next big gig.
Emily: Besides obligatory chef whites, how do you think about dressing for the kitchen?
Jackie: I almost exclusively wear Cookman chef pants. They have an elastic waistband, they’re a little bit baggy, and they come in all of these wacky prints. They have solid colors, too.
My two favorite caps are from restaurants in Nashville, oddly enough—Rolf and Daughters and their sister restaurant Folk. They’re made out of this great vinyl material. One's maroon and one's purple, and one's my fall hat and one’s my summer hat. I tried to do the whole bandana thing, but it wasn't for me.
Do you have Cookman pants in a bunch of different patterns?
Yeah. Paint splatter, mustard yellow. I wear a lot of shorts in the summer, also with elastic waistbands. At Otis, everybody in the kitchen wears black but I don't really own any black clothing. I almost never wear it. For kitchen shoes, I wear Dansko clogs. I've gone through the whole gamut of kitchen shoes, but I really love Danskos. I did the Birkenstocks thing — didn't love those. I did Shoes for Crews, like $20 slip-on fake Vans — those were kind of great.
And then what about outside of the kitchen? I know you like to go to the beach a lot.
Yeah, I grew up on the beach in South Texas and went all the time. For the first two years that I lived in New York, I didn't even realize there was a beach that I could go to. And once I figured out Rockaway, it changed my whole relationship with the city because I thought I had lost this connection to nature that I had had for my whole life. Now I have a car so I don’t have to spend an hour and a half on a train getting there.
I have a lot of bikinis, but the one I most recently bought is lavender sparkling metallic, which I’m obsessed with. I have a lot of big flowy shirts that I wear and I'm really big into terry cloth matching sets this summer. They’re very 70s, one of them is actually Playboy. And I thought they were gonna be really hot, but they're extremely breezy. The older I get the more ridiculous my outfits are getting. I try not to hold back anymore.
What do you like to wear when you're going out?
It’s really very comfort-based. I have two pairs of low heels, but it's really a special thing if I even wear those. A lot of flat sandals. Typically, when I'm going out, it's going to a big dinner. I went to Le Crocodile the other night with my friend Ivy and [my husband] Damian. It was amazing. I almost wore these pants that I'm wearing now, but I decided not to because they're too restrictive. I ended up wearing something stretchy.
That’s a good segue into restaurant merch. As someone who has been in the industry for a while, do you have a lot of merch? Do you like to wear items from your friends’ restaurants?
I do. I like to support my peers and I do feel like people are really elevating what merch looks like nowadays, which is really exciting. Roberta's has been doing that for a long time. And I'm really happy to see other people doing it now, too, because while I do own a lot of Roberta’s merch, they have a pretty specific aesthetic, and places like Win Son or (the now-closed) An Choi make awesome merch. I love to grab a meal and buy a t-shirt afterwards.
What are some of your favorite items in your closet?
These leather shoes are made by a friend of mine. He did this collaboration with Mohinder and then he burned the leather. They sold out of them before I could order a pair, but he told me to buy a regular pair and then send them to him to burn. So these are one of a kind. He did them differently than any of the other ones that he did, which was super cool. He also made [a similar] bag for me. His wife, my friend Neanna, is a vintage buyer, so she found the [leather Coach] bag for me.
I get to share a closet with my three-year-old son. He's got some good stuff in here, too. I love buying stuff for him. It's a problem.
This Whataburger jersey is randomly one of my favorite shirts.
Those boots are very Texas as well.
I inherited this pair from my mom. I actually bought these for her for her birthday one year. Robert Plant had come into the store like 30 minutes earlier, and he had bought the same ones. So my mom always called these the Robert Plant boots. I love boots, but I don't wear them so much because they're so difficult to get off. The idea of coming home and having somebody yank my boots off… I’d just rather wear sandals.
We also have a coat closet. Recently, the GM of Otis was wearing this jacket and he was like, ‘Oh, it's got your name on it.’ And on the back it says sandwich. I asked him if I could buy it off him and he just told me I could have it.
I feel like if you find something like that and then you meet someone who has the name, you kind of have to give it to them.
Totally. I've been putting together this denim jacket for years. Damian had this amazing patch [on the back] custom-made for me. And it's crazy on the inside—somebody scribbled Motley Crue. It’s obviously a vintage jacket, but my friend Brittany, who was a chef with me at Roberta's and is now opening her own place in LA, she made this [Eat The Rich] patch and that's great. I have some pins on here that I’ve had since I was a kid.