Chef Hat Tidbits: History and More

January 31 2014 – Robert Fiumara

Luxury restaurants are of course wonderful places to dine. However, they are also filled with history and tradition. Chefs use cooking techniques that have been handed down from previous generations, and the chef uniform is full of history too. Indeed, the tradition of being a chef dates back over 2000 years.


Where did the Chef Hat Come From?


There is a myth among chefs that during the seventh century chefs in Assyria wore hats that resembled crowns. Apparently they were worn so as not to be considered kitchen help. Kings of that era were routinely poisoned so the hat was added to eliminate the practice.

Chefs also began to spend time reading so they could learn new recipes and cooking methods. Unfortunately, being an intellectual was not in vogue and many chefs were executed. To protect themselves many chefs sought safety from the Greek Orthodox Church, and began wearing the garb of the monks, which included robes and hats. These caps eventually evolved into the classic chef hat we see today.


Adding Style to the Chef Hat


In the 1800s a French Chef, Marie-Antoine Carême believed chefs needed its own distinct uniform. White was chosen because it signified kitchen cleanliness, and this has endured. The height of the hat was then used to designate rank, or standing within the kitchen. It is rumored that the hat Marie-Antoine Carême wore was 18in tall and had to be reinforced to keep its tall shape.


Hat Pleats


The classic chef hat has pleats, and this too is a result of heritage. The original idea was that chefs with the most experience should have more pleats. At one time chefs had 100 pleats to indicate all the various methods he could cook eggs. While modern chef hats do not have 100 pleats they are still used to signify a chef’s experience.


Today’s World


In modern times the chef hat remains a symbol of authority and knowledge. The heavy cloth hats are not as popular as they once were because they stifle air circulation. Many have turned to disposable paper versions for comfort. Naturally, high end chefs in the world’s most prestigious eating establishments still wear the heavy traditional hats.


On the whole, the chef hat has an interesting history. While some of it is myth, and may not be true it does captivate our imagination. After all, most legends are based on fact.


Source (if you need one):

Chef Hat – History & Facts


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