A busy kitchen is a place where many accidents can happen, with so many running around and moving about within a confined space. In addition, kitchen work involves oils, liquids, sauces, and other things that could spill, splash or stain your clothes, so why is it that Chefs and kitchen staff wear white uniforms, when any stains or spills are so visible on it?
To answer this question, we have to go back to the history of Chef whites, or the Chef’s uniform.
The creation of the Chef’s uniform is credited to French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the world’s first ever celebrity Chef, in the 19th century. His main purpose for creating Chef whites is that white color signifies cleanliness which is very important when working in a kitchen. We ask whether white color won’t show dirt or stains more than other colors, but Chef Carême’s concept was that a professional and well experienced chef knows how to carry out his work without spillages and getting his uniform stained. Of course, spills are unavoidable when working in a busy kitchen, but his idea was that if something spills or stains a white uniform, it is quickly visible against the white color, and therefore the wearer can change it, minimizing cross-contamination of food and allergens from such dirt or grime. Makes sense? Absolutely!
The kitchen is a very hot and steamy environment (literally), with ovens and stoves on all the time, and working in such an environment is very difficult, and it is important that those working there are comfortable in order to be productive. White is a reflective color, and resists heat rather than absorb it, which is another reason that men’s and women’s Chef uniforms are white. White is also a color that is easy to bleach if stains do get on it, which is not possible with other colors as the color can run or fade.
Men’s and women’s chef uniforms however have certainly evolved over the years from that very first one created by Chef Marie-Antoine Carême, to include newer functional designs, better fabrics, and has even brought in a sense of style and fashion to the kitchen because wearing a uniform doesn’t mean that you should be unattractive right? Fashion and functionality have combined to create a better uniform for everyone working in the kitchen.
These days wearing white to quickly notice a stain or dirt on your uniform is not a problem, with Chef uniforms being created and designed using innovative new stain repellent fabrics, where liquids simply roll off the fabric before they could stain the uniform. This is because the fabric is sealed with a Teflon coating, for better protection. While chef uniforms using this fabric are usually made in other colors, there are also white jackets with Teflon coating, that create minimal staining.
So, what are the different aspects of a chef’s uniform?
The hat, or Toque Blanche as it is professionally called (Toque meaning ‘brimless hat’ and Blanche meaning ‘white’ in French).
The Jacket – Usually a double-breasted jacket with two rows of fabric buttons, enabling the front panel of the jacket to be reversed to cover up any stains or dirt quickly.
Chef pants – Chef pants are usually baggy to enable better movement and are usually made from black and white checked fabric to minimize how noticeable stains and dirt are. Some Chef’s however prefer to wear single-colored pants, and may even have different colors for the different ranks in the kitchen.
Irrespective of the latest designs and the many options available for chef uniforms today, many Chefs these days still prefer to wear white rather than other colors, as a mark of respect to traditions and the history of their industry, as well as all these other benefits of wearing Chef whites. It is agreed that white portrays a clean, safe and professional kitchen with white uniforms, just as Chef Carême initially intended it to be.