Mister Parmesan: A comical new source of apparel for pasta lovers
Samuel Schiffer lives with pasta on the brain each day, but now he’s got pasta on his head. While the chef works with the edible version as lead pasta maker at Pasadena’s Semolina Artisanal Pasta, his new clothing line, Mister Parmesan, puts the carb front and center on bucket hats, tees, stickers, totes and beanies.
“All I do is stare at pasta all day,” says Schiffer, who launched the line in March with his girlfriend, graphic designer Catherine Soulé. “I just watch these machines extrude hundreds of pounds of pasta in a sitting, and all I do is think about pasta. Everything in my brain is pasta all the time.”
The comical side project is a natural evolution of Schiffer’s day job preparing fresh and dried pasta for Semolina’s storefront and its restaurant wholesale accounts, as well as managing staff and recipe testing. It was also born of kitchen necessity: California health and safety codes require employees who prepare and handle food to wear some form of hair restraint. The cook had already spent his career purchasing and quickly sweating through hats in the kitchens of A.O.C., Freedman’s and other L.A. restaurants, so why not make his own and dedicate them to pasta?
On a lark Schiffer, 29, asked “What if?” and envisioned a western-style rope font that spelled out “spaghetti” in cursive, and Soulé, 30, got to work. Now there are “bucatini” bucket hats in bubbly neon lettering; “lasagna” trucker hats in navy and gold; “ziti” caps where the word is formed with lightning bolts; and a “linguine” beanie available in black, white and Dodger blue. (The bestseller so far, he admits, is the design that started it all: the red “spaghetti” rope-font dad hat.)
“I have no fashion background,” Schiffer says. “I have, like, half a literature degree from Bard College and back problems. That’s basically all I’m coming to the party with.”
Soulé, however, has served as an art director or graphic designer for brands such as Goop, Adidas, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Aeropostale. She put her skills — normally reserved for advertisements and branding — to work, bringing an anthropomorphic, cane-toting, top-hatted wheel of cheese to life.
Inspired by Warner Bros.’ singing and dancing Michigan J. Frog, Mister Parmesan (full name: Delaware J. Parmesan) is the mustachioed, vaudeville-spirited face of the brand. He appears throughout the line’s Instagram account alongside vintage cookbook photos and retro dinner scenes where the old-timey dishes and dinner guests are seen sporting the pasta-wear, which is Photoshopped into the old photos.
“I think Mister Parmesan is aspirational,” Schiffer says. “I think he’s attempting or reaching towards an idea of refinement and class, but it’s shrimp and olives in a Jell-O mold. It just felt right.”
In one photo, a corduroy “rigatoni” cap sits jauntily atop a Christmas-tree-like arrangement of lobster; in another, an upside-down “bucatini” bucket hat serves as the bowl for shrimp cocktail. Schiffer hopes to launch a newsletter, written as Mister Parmesan, sharing recipes and photos from his own collection of old cookbooks and recommending “restaurants that are weird and old and not cool,” or those steeped in that same vintage aesthetic.
The Mister Parmesan line launched in early March, with first orders being mailed later this month; the duo hope to stock their pasta fashions in local, hyper-curated corner stores and cookware shops, including Semolina Artisanal Pasta — owner Leah Ferrazzani has already offered to sell them in her Pasadena pasta storefront. The brand is trying to keep manufacturing local, working with Glendale’s Stitch Art for embroidery and screen printing.
The plan is to continually roll out new designs, such as shirts with stacked pasta terms printed on them, and expand to items such as slippers and socks. It’s a goofy, wearable art project and a love letter to pasta, and nothing, they say, is off-limits.
“The amount of stuff that we designed and didn’t put up on the website is stupefying,” Schiffer says. “We have some really crazy things where we were like, ‘This is too nuts and also too many things to do for the first run.’ We’ve got so much stupid stuff coming, you have no idea.”
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.