The History of Chef Uniforms

The quintessential chef uniform has had a long and illustrious history to become the standard uniform we know and recognise today. Essentially, the chef uniform is all about pride, which is an important trait for anyone working in the industry. The overall idea of the uniform is about more than just looking dignified and traditional, with each aspect serving a different purpose.

The Hat or Toque

The chef’s hat, also known as a toque, goes back to ancient times. In fact, the origin is somewhat grisly as thousands of years ago in Assyria; the act of food poisoning was a common technique used to get rid of one’s enemies. Assyrian royalty soon got wind of this and carefully chose their cooks, allowing them to wear a ‘crown’ to distinguish royal chefs from common cooks. Alternatively, the story of Chef Boucher, who prepared meals for the Prince of Talleyrand, insisted that all kitchen staff wear a white toque for hygienic reasons. It keeps hair out of food and helps absorb any moisture from a sweaty brow. The hat is also designed to bring a certain level of coolness that helps in a hot, stuffy kitchen. Furthermore, Chef Marie-Antoine Careme, another cook for the Prince, felt that each workstation and rank within the kitchen should don hats of different heights, with the head chef wearing the loftiest hat of the entire kitchen.

The history of the pleats in a chef’s hat is equally fascinating and is based on the idea that the more pleats a chef possessed in his hat, the more knowledgeable, skilled and experienced he is. A pleat might indicate a skill, recipe or technique that the chef has excelled in, with a chef boasting one hundred pleats at one point to show the hundred different ways he could prepare eggs. These days, chef’s hats do not feature as many pleats, although they do still indicate the chef’s level of experience.

The Chef’s Jacket

The dual-breasted chef’s jacket was first recognised in 1822 and was a staple in professional kitchens by 1878. The idea behind these wide-flapped jackets was that should the front of the jacket get stained; then the flaps could be overturned without having to replace the jacket completely. The extra layer almost acts as a defense against heat, steam, splashes, and spills.

The Trousers

A chef’s trousers are usually dark black or blue or feature a small checkered design that helps disguise unavoidable stains and spills in the kitchen.

The Apron

As with all apron’s, the chef’s apron is to safeguard the uniform around the mid-section from heat, splashes, and spills.

The Necktie

While this is not required for all professional chefs, some establishments still make use of the necktie. This garment serves the same aim to a chef’s uniform as a tie does to a suit, although it also serves to catch and wipe any facial perspiration that will occur in a hot kitchen.

The Shoes

High quality, comfortable, protective and supportive footwear is important when working in a kitchen yet is often overlooked. While shoes are the most unnoticeable part of the uniform, it is one of the most vital. This is because chefs literally stand all day and having comfortable, supportive shoes are compulsory.

Working in a kitchen is a dream many food lovers share, and earning a chef’s uniform is one of the highlights of any amateur chef’s career. A professional chef’s uniform not only adds an aura of sophistication and dignity to proceedings, but quality restaurant staff clothing helps to keep employees safe and protected from the elements of the kitchen.