Chef and Entrepreneur Rochelle Huppin Fleck ’87, Fashion in the Kitchen
CIA Alumni Bio
Rochelle Huppin Fleck, director of Violet Cooking School and Shop and the founder and former president of Chefwear, Inc., believes that chefs uniforms were born out of practicality and have always been an important facet of the profession. The double-breasted front panel jacket allows a chef to enter the dining room or service looking presentable. The hounds-tooth pattern acts as a camouflage.
My Heart was Set on the CIA
Growing up in Spokane, WA, the young Rochelle had her heart set on moving to Paris to study cooking, but her parents suggested she attend college in the United States first and then go to culinary school. During her senior year at UCLA, she tended the herb garden and spent time in the kitchen at the Hotel Bel-Air, re-igniting her desire for a culinary career. So, after earning her bachelor’s degree with honors from UCLA, she went on to attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
After graduating with a degree in culinary arts, she returned to the Hotel Bel-Air, this time in the kitchen creating pastries. Chef Huppin Fleck next landed a job as a pastry assistant with Michel Richard’s newly opened Citrus restaurant in Los Angeles. She later went on to serve as opening pastry chef for Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA and then moved back to Los Angeles to work for Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff at Spago, Chinois on Main, Eureka, and Granita. In total, Chef Huppin Fleck helped open nearly a dozen restaurants in her pastry career, receiving accolades all along the way.
The concept for Chefwear began as a personal necessity and ultimately revolutionized the way chefs dress. The stiff, unattractive polyester pants issued to Rochelle as a CIA freshman in 1985 prompted her to get a doctor’s note saying she was allergic to polyester and ask a friend to make a 100% cotton uniform for her to wear. A few years later, while working at Granita, Chef Huppin Fleck had seven pairs of chef’s pants made up in cotton—and in various colors—and the rest is history. In 1990, she went on to develop Chefwear, Inc., a company featuring a full line of contemporary and traditional chef clothing. By 1992, the growing business demanded her full-time attention, and with the help of husband and Chefwear partner Gary Fleck, Chef Huppin Fleck devoted all her time to Chefwear. The company’s lines of chef apparel are functional and stylish, and celebrate the diversity of the culinary work place.
After 25 years, Rochelle stepped away from Chefwear and is now the director of Violet Cooking School and Shop in Violet, CA. She is also an entrepreneur and imagination officer of her own company, RH22.
Chef Rochelle Huppin Fleck majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is the director of Violet Cooking School and Shop in Violet, CA.