The Chef’s uniform, or Chef whites as they are usually called, is an integral part of any kitchen team. From their uniform they can designate who is who, who does what, and create a professional ambience for the establishment. This uniform that Chefs wear is steeped with tradition and history.
In recent times however, Chef whites have become more than just a ‘white’ uniform. They are now being designed with style and fashion in mind, but not in the least forgetting functionality, of course. Chef wear makers are coming up with newer designs, better breathable and more functional fabrics, and are making the uniform look good! Whether it is men’s or women’s chef uniforms, you can now find them in a range of colors, styles and event prints.
There are also certain parts of the uniform, such as the Chef jacket, which is being made with innovative new materials that don’t stain because liquids simply roll off the material before it could hold on to it. These are known as waxed canvas materials, and the designs are making them more open and breathable to ensure that the wearer is not only clean and tidy, but comfortable as well, especially when working in a hot environment like a kitchen. The designs of these Chef jackets allow for greater air flow and sweat absorption, and don’t forget that these new materials are made to be better at keeping the wearer safe from hazards that can happen in the kitchen, such as burns from fire and steam etc.
What is included in a chef’s uniform?
- The Toque (or Chef hat).
- Double Breasted Jacket.
- Chef pants – usually black and white checked baggy pants.
- Apron – to protect your Chef whites.
What is the significance of each of these items that are included in a chef’s uniform?
Toque – The higher the hat the more senior the Chef is. A Head Chef usually wears a very high Toque, while assistant chef’s wear shorter ones. Kitchen staff are usually given Skull Hats. The Chef’s hat is mainly worn for hygiene reasons, to keep hair and sweat from falling into the food. It is also worn as a means of designating seniority, as we mentioned before. It is said that the 100 folds of a Toque represent the many ways that a Chef knows how to cook a simple egg. The history of the Chef hat or Toque is very interesting. In 16th century France artisan chefs had to hide themselves as their form of creativity was considered to be a sin. These chefs hid themselves in monasteries and churches and copied the tall hats worn by the priesthood of that time, so that they would not be found out.
Chef Jacket – The Chef’s jacket is made of a heavy cotton fabric which provides insulation to the wearer, in addition to protecting them from splashing oil and other hazards such as fire and steam. It’s a double-breasted jacket with two long rows of fabric buttons that help a chef to cover up any dirt or stains by turning over the front panel of the jacket if they intend meeting any customers. Most jackets are also reversible, meaning that they can turn the jacket inside out and wear it again. The fabric used for Chef whites, especially the jackets, is of a fire and heat resistant kind.
Chef Pants – The usual Chef pants that most chefs favor is the baggy, loose pant, which is made from a black and white checked fabric, which is great at hiding any stains, dirt or grime that may have got on the pants. Some chefs even favor wild prints for their pants in order to better cover up stains. Baggy chef pants are ideal as they provide ease of movement for the hard-working Chef, and being a chef means they will need to constantly run around, bend etc, which would be difficult with restricting tight pants. The bagginess of the pants also protects their skin from getting burnt immediately in case of a hot spill. Single colored pants may also be used in the kitchen, with color differentiations according to rank.
Apron – The Chef’s apron is mainly worn for safety reasons, to protect from hot spillages and similar hazards. The apron usually covers the upper torso and the legs up to the knees, for greater protection. Chef aprons usually come with adjustable neck loops and ties around the waist, with waistbands to hold the apron in place and provide greater comfort.
In addition to these items Chefs should also wear protective shoes to prevent injury from hot spillages and falling objects.
So, are Chef whites mainly a fashion statement or made for functionality? We think its both. While they provide protection, ease of movement and a hygienic environment to prepare food, there is no rule that says that the Chef’s uniform should not be stylish and fashionable, whether you are looking at men’s or women’s chef uniforms.