July 12 2018 – Robert Fiumara
Origins Of The Chef Uniform
The common image of a chef includes a white apron accompanied by a tall chef’s hat. So where did this distinctive image get its start? The traditional outfit cropped up in 1822 when a French artist named Marie-Antoine Careme included it in a sketch. Each part of the chef’s uniform has a specific purpose, many of which date back to centuries ago. There are fascinating origins for each item in a chef’s outfit.
The chef’s hat has one of the most complex and, arguably, the most interesting histories of all the aspects of the chef uniform. Chefs first began wearing the same hats thousands of years ago. In Assyria, one of the most common ways to kill someone was by poisoning them. Royalty would carefully choose chefs, acutely aware of the ease with which they could poison one of them. To differentiate them from other workers, the royal chefs wore fabric hats like crowns.
Another significant moment for the chef’s hat design was in the 16th century. Authorities arrested or killed artists of all types, including chefs, for threatening society with freethinking. To escape the horrifying fate, many chefs hid as priests in the Orthodox Church. Because the priests wore tall hats, the chefs would also don tall hats. The style carried on because even after they no longer needed to hide, chefs would wear the tall hats as a sign of solidarity against their persecution. This trend, however, remained only with Greek chefs for years.
A few centuries later, Chef Marie-Antoine Careme, the same person who sketched the first picture of the traditional uniform, decided that hats should indicate status in the kitchen. Because chefs were the leaders of the kitchen, they wore the tallest hats. According to legend, Careme once wore a hat that was 18 inches tall, needing pieces of cardboard to help support it on top of his head.
Finally, the pleats on a chef’s hat are also significant. History states that they represent the experience a chef has. The chef would have one pleat for every skill or recipe he learned. For example, a chef could have 50 pleats on the hat if he knew 50 ways to cook potatoes as a central part of a dish. Though there are fewer pleats, modern-day chef hat pleats still communicate experience.
The traditional chef’s jacket also has a specific design. Marie-Antoine Careme drew the double-breasted jacket in the sketch in the early 1800s, but they were not widely fashionable for all chefs until about 50 years later. The double-breasted design gives chefs the ability to tuck one flap beneath the other if the original flap becomes dirty or stained. The cook would hide the dirty flap and show the clean one. The purpose for doing so was that chefs could wear the jacket for twice as long before needing to clean it.
Though black is also being used today, traditional chefs uniforms were all white. One of the reasons for the color choice is appearance. Wearing all white makes the chefs appear to be more powerful, as well as adding a sense of perfection. There is, however, also a more functional purpose. Unlike black, which absorbs heat easily, the white fabric is better at reflecting heat, helping the chef stay cool in hot kitchens.
Although less common currently, chefs used to always wear checkered pants. The pants would have black and white checkers, which were often an overwhelming sight to behold. Because the design was quite loud, it was significantly more difficult for people to see stains on the pants.
Need Some Chef Apparel?
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the origins of the chef uniform. At Fiumara Apparel, our priority is to always secure complete customer satisfaction. Our work defines the benchmark for exceptional quality and impeccable service. We will always remain committed to ensuring that all our products fulfill customer expectations in terms of quality, durability, and style. We carry different options for non-slip kitchen shoes and also a variety of other products including coats, pants, aprons, shirts & accessories for both men & women. We invite you to shop our store today!