They may be working behind the scenes, but you can almost guarantee that professional chefs are wearing their classic uniform when they are in the kitchen.
Companies that cater to chefs, like Chef Works (chefworks.com.au) know all about combining style and function to create the perfect uniform.
The Chef Uniform
There is more to a full uniform than the puffy white hat we all recognize as the symbol of the chef. The hat, more technically known as a toque blanche, has been associated with chefs and professional cooks for hundreds of years.
Along with the hat, a chef wears a white collarless long-sleeved double-breasted jacket. The standard loose pants for the uniform are either plain black or a houndstooth pattern in black and white. Aprons are often worn over the jacket to prevent spills or stains from spoiling the uniform.
Why Do They Wear It?
It’s more a matter of tradition and expectation than any official requirement. The uniform is a symbol of professionalism and a chef’s status in the kitchen. Even so, there are bits of reasoning behind all the elements of the uniform, with each item having a history of it’s own.
The jacket is white to represent cleanliness, which is a vital aspect of proper food preparation. More and more modern chefs are tweaking the tradition and going for jackets in colors other than white (usually gray or black) but will still keep the classic double-breasted design.
What about the pants? The distracting checkered pattern of the houndstooth makes it easy to hide the inevitable stains that all chefs get when cooking. The fit is slightly baggy just so they are comfortable in a hot, busy kitchen.
There isn’t any real practical reasoning behind the hat, other than the fact that wearing a hat has long been part of any uniform and it keeps hair out of the way. In this case, the height of the hat has often indicated the status of the chef. Some styles are just a starched cylinder, but the style with the looser puff on top is the one we think of most. Legend has it that the pleats represent the many ways a good chef knows how to prepare an egg. Some modern chefs have toned down the classic hat, to create a tighter fitting “beanie” cap that is a bit more practical when bustling around.
So while the uniform isn’t officially issued by anyone, most professional chefs choose to wear the classic pieces to symbolize their role in the kitchen. It’s a practical combination of clothing that creates a unique look that doesn’t compromise safety and comfort in a kitchen.
Men or Women
Of course in today’s world, the realm of the professional chef is no longer just for men. Women are in the best kitchens too, and their uniforms are just the same. The jackets may be cut a little different for a woman but the overall attire is the same: hat, jacket and houndstooth pants.