The chef’s uniform is a unique kitchen uniform, which is used not only to distinguish the executive chefs from the other kitchen workers but also for safety reasons as well. Therefore, the chef’s uniform is both traditional and practical. Legend has it that Napoleon introduced the idea of the chef’s uniform because he wanted the culinary masters who worked for him to resemble soldiers.
However, the wearing of the uniform is more often attributed to the famous French chef Antonin Carême, who is the “Father of Haute Cuisine.” Before the 1600s, French cooking was not as elaborate nor were the uniforms as “snazzy” as they are today. However, the traditional hat and jacket have remained as commemorative clothing in the culinary art of cooking.
The chef’s white jacket is considered completely practical, although, today, it is featured in various colours. However, white is still worn the most often. Although white is known to show stains easier, it can also be bleached white again. The chef white hire apparel that is often used in the kitchens of fine restaurants is one of the top choices in five-star establishments. Dark colours often still show stains, with the stains more difficult to remove. Therefore, the bright white chef’s coat provides the added reassurance to restaurant patrons that both the chef and his kitchen are clean.
Another reason why white is often worn is because it won’t absorb heat but, instead, reflects the heat in the kitchen, thereby protecting the kitchen staff from the stove’s flames and cooking pans. There is always a flare-up every now and then as well. Therefore, chefs and cooks appreciate the traditional white garb made of a heavy cotton material.
A Reversible Jacket
Naturally, the sleeves on a chef’s jacket are long in order to safeguard the arms from being burnt and from being scalded the hot oil that is used. The front is double-breasted, with rows of buttons displayed on either side. The multi-layered fabric of the chef’s jacket safeguards the wearer from the scorching relentless heat. The outside layer can also be reversed. Therefore, the chef can reverse the covering and button it on the opposite side.
The buttons on the uniform are also unique as they are different from the buttons displayed on shirts. Instead of using metal or plastic, the buttons on a traditional chef’s uniform are made of knots of cloth. Using cloth buttons ensures that any plastic or metal pieces won’t end up in the entrees or other dishes. The cloth buttons also make the jacket simpler to remove in case of any contact with hot cooking oil or a fire ensues. Using the cloth buttons enables easier removal than when hard buttons are attached to the jacket and are used.
Black and Loose Trousers
While chefs are in the habit today of wearing all sorts of colourful trousers, tradition dictates that the chef wears a plain black pair of trousers or one with black-and-white checked design. Chefs wear checked pants to hide any staining. Usually mixed synthetic or lightweight cotton fabrics are used for making the trousers along with a Teflon coating. The trousers are loose and lightweight to keep the chef cool and to permit easy movement.
Keeping Everything Safe
The kitchen should be a safe place to work, thus, you cannot design a kitchen worker’s or a chef’s trousers so that they are tight in case of a hot oil spill. The fabric would burn right against the unfortunate chef’s skin, causing a bad injury. Loose-fitting trousers, then, keep any hot oil spill from coming into contact with the skin. However, you don’t want the jacket or pants to be too baggy as that can present a hazard as well. Overly baggy work trousers or jackets might snag or catch on equipment in the kitchen or may possibly catch fire.
The neckerchief that is worn by a chef is called a tour de cou. This kitchen fashion is not worn that much these days, but it was once worn to mop sweat from the neck or the brow. Different colours of neckties or neckerchiefs can be worn, however, to identify various members of the kitchen crew. Because contemporary restaurant kitchens have better ventilation systems, chefs and kitchen workers normally don’t wear the traditional neck pieces. Today, wearing these neck pieces would be considered unhygienic if they were used to wipe up perspiration.
The Chef’s Apron
The chef’s apron is used extensively today, with kitchen aprons used by everyone in the kitchen, including the dishwashers. Usually, a chef wears a lengthy white apron that is designed to fold over the top and is tied in the front. The apron normally covers the knees. Again, an apron provides extra protection against burns. Tying the apron in front is another safeguard as well, as doing so allows for quick and easy removal.
The Chef’s Shoes
The shoes of the chef, as you might guess, are also used to protect the feet from falling objects, such as knives and oil. Chefs formerly wore shoes with toe caps for additional protection. However, kitchen hazards are not as great today and you often see a chef wearing trainers instead. Still, a chef’s shoes may also be made of leather for extra safety.
The Chef’s Towel
Although it is often not always considered part of the uniform, the torchon or towel of the chef is also traditional. If you have watched chefs preparing food on TV, you might have noticed the culinary artists displaying the towel, looped through the apron ties, and hanging at the side. The towel is used for wiping the hands. However, it is really meant to serve as a potholder. Getting the towel wet will not insulate the chef’s hands if he does decide to use it for its intended purpose.
The Chef’s Hat
Finally, the chef’s hat is an iconaclastic accessory of the uniform. The tall hat or toque may be featured in different sizes but is generally tall. The hats are open at the very top in order to provide coolness. During earlier times, the hat signified a culinary cook’s rank. Naturally, the taller the hat, the more important the chef. Therefore, an apprentice during this period usually wore a skullcap instead of the traditional toque.