If Josef Centeno’s hands are dyed blue or gray or green or pink, it’s usually by choice. “I don’t really like using the gloves. Indigo’s really bad—they’ll be blue for like a week. This is black walnut,” he says, glancing down at his charcoal-colored fingers. “It’s the same sort of organics and I do a lot of it the way that I cook: by feeling.”
Centeno’s not talking about cooking, though. In addition to closing out a new cookbook and garnering a 2018 James Beard nod, the Bäco Mercat, Orsa & Winston, P.Y.T. and Bar Amá chef’s somehow found time to pick up a new hobby this year—organically dyeing materials—and because Centeno’s part-time pursuits are nothing short of full-fledged projects, that hobby fast became a clothing line.
Prospect Pine began on a lark in December, when the chef was looking for unique, personal gifts for dozens of industry friends and members of his own teams, and decided to try his hand at making something. After sourcing a few loopwheeled hoodies he set to dipping, squeezing, drying and re-dipping them, hanging them all over his home. It was a return to the tie-dye activities he’d enjoyed in his youth—and embraced as a Deadhead—and suddenly Centeno was rummaging through his own light-colored clothes to see what else he could dye. Then came the sourcing and dyeing of vintage military jackets, which led to the sourcing and dyeing of vintage bandanas, beanies, scarves and sustainable linen aprons and, well, here we are, one clothing line later.
Soon after, Orsa & Winston began a redesign and the chef began indigo-dyeing linen napkins—which you’ll be able to purchase from the restaurant in packs of four for $40 later this week. Orsa & Winston sweatshirts will follow, and so will aprons and more restaurant tees. Other goods, such as the vintage military jackets (at around $295) and large totes (at around $60) will be found in the online Bäco shop, also toward the end of the week.
But it’s less a new business prospect and more a personal release; the chef hand-dyes whenever he can find time, whether he’s just getting home after service, around 11pm, or waking up early to continue at 6 or 7am before heading back to the restaurants, finding peace and dyeing from beneath a pine tree in the backyard of his workshop on Prospect Avenue. It’s also a marriage of fashion and cooking; Centeno sources dyes from local farms as well as the scrap bins of his restaurants, keeping it sustainable.
“It’s a project I’m excited about. It’s also my therapy,” he says. “In a way, it is cooking. I’m using a lot of organic materials, and that’s why I like dyeing with my hands.” These organic materials include activated charcoal, squid ink and turmeric. He grabs beet and pepper scraps from P.Y.T., his vegetable-heavy restaurant, and buys black walnuts from Thao Farms.
On a table in a corner of Orsa & Winston, a number of folded polka-dot pattern fabrics from the 1920s wait to be used as the inner lining of jackets and cuffs in more Prospect Pine jackets. While Centeno’s working with a tailor to make the alterations, he’s also learning how to sew. When it comes to design, the chef is self-taught, though he’s always loved fashion, and cites Visvim founder-designer Hiroki Nakamura and former YSL—newly at Céline—designer Hedi Slimane as major influences.
“Even as a kid I’ve always been into clothes,” he says. “It was my leather jacket when I was four and really into Grease; I had the biker jacket and raw denim and cowboy boots. Then I was following the Grateful Dead. Now it’s funny because I’m kind of making a full circle to becoming a hippie again. But I’ve always been really into it.”
Find Prospect Pine on Instagram, with select items available for sale at Orsa & Winston, which is located at 122 W 4th Street, and a small selection available at Now Serving. Look to Bäco Mercat’s merch page for more items in the coming weeks.