Story behind the Chef’s White Uniform

Clean restaurant kitchen with the staff

We associate certain professions with certain types of clothes. When we think of soldiers, for example, we tend to picture men and women wearing uniforms. The same thing is true for policemen, firemen or any other profession.

Chefs are no different and when we think of them as wearing white jackets and hats.

White or coloured, Alsco has has a wide-range of chef uniforms that make your chefs and kitchen staff look and feel their best the whole day.

Wearing White in the Kitchen

Though many chefs today wear other colours when they are in the kitchen, white is still their traditional colour for their hat and jacket. Why do chefs wear white? Let’s take a look back at history.

The chef’s jacket that we know today became common in the late 19th century. The jacket was wide-flapped and double-layered, the idea was that if the jacket became soiled, all that a chef had to do is to reverse it and he has a clean jacket again, provided that he has not reversed it before.

That means that a chef can use a jacket for twice as long. It also offers more protection from the heat.

But Why White?

Obviously, wearing white in the kitchen can be a problem. It shows stains a lot easier and, when cooking, stains can be unavoidable. But the white jackets are completely practical.

Though white would show stains more easily than other colours, it also means that the jacket can be bleached. That cannot be done with jackets of different colours because the bleach would ruin the colour of the jacket.

Male chef smiling

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White is also a way of showing that the chef is committed to cleanliness.

It is a way of assuring the customers that the food they eat was prepared in the cleanest and therefore the safest way possible. White, also, does not absorb heat, so it offers some protection from the intense heat of cooking.

So, chefs wear white because it looks neater and because it is a lot more practical. But what about the other articles of clothing that chefs wear?

The Pants: Why Checkered?

We have the hats and the jackets covered, now how about the pants that chefs usually wear?

Pants with black and white checkered patterns or black pants are the traditional outfit of chefs, though that is changing now. The checkered patterns on the pants helped with hiding the stains. That is the simple explanation for the design of the pants and it really was effective when it comes to hiding stains and dirt.

The Apron and the Side Towels

Though not really part of the chef’s attire, the apron and the side towels are things that chefs always use in the kitchen. Chefs use aprons that are folded on top and then are tied at the front. It should cover the knees and it gives added protection.

Person making dimsum

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The side towel is usually looped to the strings of the apron and it is allowed to hang by the side of the thigh of a chef. The side towels are not meant for drying hands or for wiping surfaces. They are meant for holding on to pots and pans. The towel should not even get wet.

The Hat: Toque Blanche

More than the white jacket, the hat is the most distinctive part of a chef’s attire in the kitchen. The white hat, known as the toque blanche, is what sets a chef apart.

These hats have a curious history.  It is said that the hats were adopted from the headgear of the priests of the Orthodox Church. Initially, the hats were grey until they were changed to white by Marie-Antoine Carême, together with the rest of the chef’s outfit.

Woman wearing toque blanche

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It was Carême’s idea to make differences in the height of the hats. The experienced chefs got to wear the tallest headgear, while young cooks got ones that were more like caps.

Neckerchief or Necktie

The tour de cou better known as the necktie or neckerchief that is worn by the chef is also an important feature of their outfit.  These days, it is just worn mostly for aesthetic purposes and to make a chef’s outfit look better, but like the rest of the of the chef’s uniform it has a more practical origin.

Chef cooking inside the kitchen

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The tour de cou was originally meant to mop up the sweat on the neck and the brow of the chef as he was going about with his duties. These days, the kitchens have better ventilation so chefs don’t really end up sweating that much that they would need something around their neck to soak it all up.

The Shoes

Often overlooked as part of the chef’s gear are the shoes. As in any busy work setting where there are a lot of physical activities going on, the kitchen can be prone to accidents.

There are a lot of things there that can fall, like knives, pots and pans. Hot oil, water and food could get accidentally poured and because of that, a chef should wear shoes that can provide the right kind of protection.

A chef’s shoes should provide protection from falling objects and from slipping. That is why some chefs wear steel toed shoes to offer some sort of protection. They should also be non-slip because the kitchen floor can sometimes be slippery and dangerous because of material that gets poured on it.’

The Clothes Help Make the Chef

You now know a few things about the stuff that chefs wear. From their toque to their jacket, all of those things help them to perform their duties in the kitchen. Each article has a very practical reason behind and even the colour they use serves a purpose. The uniform they wear in the kitchen is just as functional as any other profession’s.

The next time you see a chef wearing his kitchen uniform, you would be able to appreciate the history and the reason behind it all.

With comfort and style on offer, Alsco chef coats are the perfect workwear for your cooking staff. Laundered and returned to you on schedule, saving you capital costs, this tax-deductible expense makes perfect economic sense too.

Get your free quote about our chef coats that come with unmatched quality, service and price.

Photo courtesy from Pixabay Images by Unsplash

Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.