Chef Hat Origins | The History Behind Hospitality Uniforms
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Chef’s will traditionally be found wearing a white, double breasted jacket, pants in a black and white hounds tooth check pattern, and a ‘toque blanche’ (white hat). This uniform style is quite common, and very easy to recognise. The uniforms are designed to be both practical and protective for the employees, however today, some chefs choose to wear appropriations of the traditional uniforms. For example, some chefs choose to wear the hounds tooth pants, but not the ‘toque blanche’. The choice to move away from the traditional chef uniform style comes down to the uniform code of the workplace, or the chef’s personal choice.

Toque Blanche (Chef Hat)

The chef hat dates back to the 16th century. It Is said that the many heights of a chef hat indicate that chefs rank within the kitchen. The higher the hat, the higher the rank of that chef. Chef hats are also used as a means of hygiene, to keep hair from the chefs’ face and prevent any unwanted hairs in food.

It is said the the pleats in a chef hat would be representative of the number of recipes they had mastered. So, for example, a chef with 100 pleats may have mastered 100 different ways to cook an egg. In modern times, the number of pleats doesn’t really represent much more than a fashion statement, however the greater number of pleats does indicate the amount of experience a chef has had.

Traditional Chef Uniforms

Some chefs in traditional restaurants, i.e. French Restaurants continue to wear the double-breasted white coat as a signifier of the high regard they have for their profession. These garments are made from thick cloth and designed as not only an aesthetic garment, but also a safety feature for chefs. The dense layers protect the chef from the heat of ovens and stoves, and any potential spurting liquids. The double-breasted areas are strategically placed over the stomach and chest, to prevent scalding burns from boiling liquids in sensitive areas. Some chefs choose to wear an apron which also provides safety purposes. Should any liquids or hot materials spill, the apron catches the brunt of it and can be quickly removed. The Apron tends to be worn long to cover the thighs of the chef.  An apron is also convenient in maintaining a clean uniform. It catches any minor spills, and keeps the chef whites, white. Often aprons will contain pockets where a chef can keep key tools for their day to day job.

Chefs Today

Chefs today like any profession, have evolved to suit the times. Traditional chefs may still sport the old-style white shirt, checked pants and white chef hat, but others will trade out the torque for a baseball cap, bandana or a hair net. The style depends on the style of cuisine, and the type of restaurant.