Chef Uniform History
Why Wear a Chefs Uniform?
As home cooks, we rarely don a uniform to perform our duties. On occasion we will toss on an apron to prevent our clothes from getting a spattering of grease. For those of us who love to cook everyday not for the sake of customers, but for the sake of our love for food and family, we may be missing a valuable part of the joyous cooking experience— the chef's uniform.
There is hardly a restaurant you can walk into where uniforms are not utilized in the kitchen; the checked hound's tooth pants and double-breasted jackets or the full-length apron and hat. Specially designed skid-free and comfortable shoes to sooth tired feet from the toils of preparations. It may be that the uniform is taken for granted or worn without much thought. However, the uniform of this honorable position is one to understand and respect. You might just discover that the origin and explanations behind the traditional chefs' uniform are as fun to learn as the uniform is to wear.
This hound's tooth pattern helps to hide the spills and splashes...
Muppet chef image is compliments of blogs.dixcdn.com
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CHEF JACKETS, PANTS AND NECKERCHIEFS
For the most part, the uniform a chef wears is designed from a utilitarian point of view. The jacket or coat, has a double-breasted design so it can be reversed when stains become to many; the second layer of natural cotton insulates the body from severe heat of ovens and stoves and the occasional splatter of boiling water or oils. Many of today's jackets (but all from the early ages) have knotted cotton buttons. Cotton can withstand several more washings and continued impact with pots and pans and kitchen equipment than a plastic or bone button placed on a chef coat.
You may notice that executive chefs often wear strictly plain black pants, while working chefs, sous chefs, and line-cooks sport the black-and-white checks. This hound's tooth pattern helps to hide the spills and splashes of the more active chefs, whereas the managing chef's wear black pants because spills on this chef are less likely.
Once in while you find a purist chef, who will be wearing a neckerchief. In current time, they are worn strictly as aesthetic adornment and to provide a more 'chefy' appearance. Originally these cotton cloths were a vital tool for cooks, serving as a sponge soaking up body sweat during the long hours of enduring the unbearable heat of early kitchen designs.
Managing or full-chefs wear the tall pleated hats and the younger or apprentice cooks wear the shorter cap-like hats.
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Proper Way to Tie and Wear Your Chef Neckerchief. (1 min. 32 sec. video)
NECKERCHIEFS FOR THAT 'CHEFY' LOOK
WHAT'S WITH THAT CRAZY CHEF HAT?
The most identifiable, distinguishing and honored component of the chef couture is the chef's hat, or toque blanche—the French word for "white hat"— and can present much debate when discussed. As long ago as 16th century, chefs have been wearing the toque. In the 16th century many creative types (artisans) would be tossed in prisons, or put to death, simply because they were freethinkers. To prevent this incarceration, some chefs hid within the Orthodox Church, among the priests who resided at these monasteries. The chefs would wear the same attire as the priests (the tall hats and long robes), priests wearing a black version of the cloaks and the chefs wearing a gray version so those within the 'loop' could know them accordingly. Chef Marie-Antoine Carême, redesigned the chef uniform in the 1800's to reflect cleanliness and goodness in the kitchen by revising this gray uniform to a stark white color. They also began to wear the double-breasted jackets in this same century. Carême redesigned the hats at this time as well, devising a ranking system for the hats. The chefs would wear the tall hats and the the younger or apprentice cooks wore the shorter cap-like hats. Carême is said to have worn a hat that measured 18" in height! The pleated design of the toque, now a standard among chef hats, was originally said to be representational of the more than 100 ways a great chef could prepare an egg.
HOW MUCH DID YOU LEARN ABOUT CHEF UNIFORMS?
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