The history behind the chefs uniform
The traditional chef's uniform, including toque (traditional chefs hat), white double breasted jacket, and checked pants are instantly recognized by most members of the Western world, especially in this day of television's celebrity chefs. What isn't obvious is the origins, generally for practical reasons, of each item.
Chef Hat - The History & Origin
The chef hat isn't for style but sheer practical use. They are for preventing every food eater's nightmare of finding hair in their food, purely and simply. They also denote how accomplished the chef is. If you've ever noticed the pleats on a chef's hat and thought they were simply for sheer fanciness then guess again - they are the equivalent of stripes on the arm of a military person. The number of pleats goes up to one hundred, which would be the most accomplished a chef could be and is also said to denote the no of ways in which the chef can cook a egg .
There is no single known origin of the toque, the French name for the chef hat, and it is shrouded in historical guesswork and nothing is conclusive. One widely accepted origin of the chef hat is it originated in the Henry VIII era, when much to the King's horror he found a hair in his food. He then beheaded the person whose head it fell from, and thereafter ordered all of his kitchen staff to wear chef hats.
However other countries lay claim to been the first inventors of chef hats. The simple fact is it wouldn't be too outrageous to assume some sort of hygienic head wear was adopted by the many refined cultures of the world, in some shape or form.
The double breasted jacket can be reversed to hide stains. Its thick cotton cloth protects from the heat of stove and oven and protects from splattering of boiling liquids. Traditionally knotted cloth buttons were used because they could stand up to the frequent washing and survive contact with hot items without melting.
The hound's tooth checked pattern frequent on trousers serves to camouflage minor stains. The use of white for other pieces of clothing, especially by highly visible head chefs, is intended to denote cleanliness.
An apron is an obviously useful piece of equipment used to shield the rest of the wearer's garments from food splatters and stains.
Some modern chefs have put their own distinct spin on the traditional uniform. Color, pattern and design changes all contribute to the unique personality of these chefs. But the traditional, practical, clothing of the chef still remains a standard in the food industry.