We’re all familiar with traditional chef attire – the big white hat, chef jacket, apron etc. But have you ever wondered why chefs wear these garments? Are they just for show? Or do they have a more functional purpose? Let’s explore each piece of the chef wardrobe and find out!
The auspicious chef hat, or toque, as it’s traditionally called, dates back to the sixteenth century. Many believe the different heights of chef hats signified ranking in kitchens back then. And interestingly, it’s said the folds in chef hats of this era represented the number of ways the chef could cook an egg. A nice touch, right? Apart from what it signifies, the chef hat also has a hygienic purpose. It protects the hair from oil and smoke in the kitchen, allows air to circulate on top of the head, prevents hair from falling into food, and absorbs perspiration from the forehead – like a sweatband!
The chef necktie is a triangular cloth that gets folded and worn around the neck, like a tie. Historically, the necktie served to absorb perspiration and protect the neck from drafts in hot, underground kitchens. Our modern-day air conditioning has rendered the necktie unnecessary. But chefs today choose to wear it as a sign of respect for the cheffing trade.
It goes without saying that the classic chef jacket is impressive-looking. And this is no coincidence – it signifies the high regard of the cheffing profession. The colour of the buttons indicates the level the chef has reached – black for qualified chefs and white for unqualified chefs. Not only does the chef jacket look important, but is an important protection layer against the heat of stoves and splashes from boiling liquids. That’s why the chef coat is double-breasted and long-sleeved, and always buttoned up with a specific number of buttons. It’s basically a protective shield!
Chef trousers are traditionally black, or black and white check. Today, chef’s trousers can be other colours, like blue or khaki. But they are always dark, to hide the inevitable dirty patches that come with working with food. Chef trousers are loose-fitting and more informal when compared to the jacket. The loose fit keeps chefs cool and gives them the freedom needed to move about the kitchen.
What would a chef be without an apron? The classic apron worn by home-cooks and chefs alike has one main purpose – to protect the lower body from spills. Professional chefs usually wear them from the waist to just below the knee, with the top part folded and tied around the waist. Aprons are quick and easy to put on and take off, allowing chefs to clean up in seconds when heading to the dining area to meet customers.
Did you think that chefs wear any old pair of shoes in the kitchen? They certainly do not! The pair of shoes worn by a professional chef has to meet a certain standard of requirements. The shoes need to be slip-resistant, sturdy, supportive and comfortable. They must also have a cover over the toe area to protect the feet if something gets spilled or dropped in the kitchen. They should be water-resistant, and not absorb fat, so they are quick and easy to clean. Chef shoes are traditionally black and are usually worn with black socks, and they can be either laced or slip-on in style.
If you’ve always dreamed of putting on that big white hat and chef coat, why not enrol at our prestigious chef school? We offer hands-on, specialised training to aspiring chefs, equipping them with the skills they need to take the food industry by storm. Keen to join us? Get in touch and let’s get your chef attire fitted.