Uniforms i

The Chef Uniform and its Functional Purposes

Restaurant Uniforms

A Brief History of Chef's Uniforms

Traditionally, the chef uniform which includes components such as the Toque Blanche, the Double-breasted jacket, apron and necktie, was designed and developed out of necessity rather than fashion (as it is today). Each component of the uniform serves specific purposes which are often overlooked by many people and chefs themselves.

The color white in the chef uniform was introduced during the 1800s by Marie-Antoine CarÍme. It was felt that white was more appropriate in the kitchen because it represented cleanliness. Double-breasted jackets were also introduced during this time. Chefs and younger cooks were differentiated by the height of their Toques or Hats. Escoffier shared CarÍmeís thought on cleanliness, and felt that it promoted professionalism and urged his staff to wear coats even if they were not at work.

In the 1950s, paper toques that looked like natural fabric were invented which were disposable once used and soiled. Then with the dawn of the 1980ís, non-conventional components like pinstriped pants, denims and company logos were introduced into the chef apparel. Many considered this innovation as an expression of individuality and to be more comfortable than wearing the traditional starched stiff suits.

Functional Purposes of Chef's Uniforms

The Toque Blanch (Hat): The origin of the Toque is unclear and is often a topic of debate. Chefs are said to have worn hats as early as the 16th century. There are many stories behind the Toque, and most of them are based on legend and may not be factual. However, the main purpose of the Hat is to prevent hair from falling into the food that is being prepared. King Henry VIII supposedly ordered the beheading of his Cook after he found hair in his soup. The Hat also protects the hair from being soiled by splattering grease or oil. Besides its functional purpose, the Toque Blanche is the most conspicuous component of a chef uniform with which most people associate chefs with.

Double-breasted Jacket: The jacket is thought to be introduced in the 1800s, during the time of Marie-Antoine CarÍme. The double-breasted feature allows the wearer to reverse sides if there is stain. Heat from cooking and splattering are also shielded by the jacket often padded with non-flammable materials like cotton. Though the pants or hats may differ between the executive chef, senior chefs and normal cooks, they usually wear the same double-breasted white jacket.

The neckerchief: Originally, neckerchiefs were intended to soak body sweats which may be used to wipe moisture on the face, forehead or other parts of the body. However, the modern version is donned with fashion in mind, and to complete the chef image. Neckerchiefs come in various shapes, sizes and designs.

The Pants: The black and white checkered houndís tooth pattern of the traditional pants is still the standard today though it has been modified in numerous ways. This pattern is helpful in concealing stains and soiling. The chef pants have become relatively innovative over the years with the introduction of custom-made chef uniforms, denims, pinstriped and other patterns into the chef uniform.