Why Do Chefs Wear White?

Posted on September 30 2018

The Reason Chefs Always Wear White 

The tradition of wearing white pants, shirts, aprons, coats, and toques as a chef started roughly in the 1800's but remains prominent in kitchens around the world today. Although most chefs have the option to wear a variety of colors while cooking, many chefs, seasoned and new, still consider white the traditional color for kitchen uniforms. If you’ve ever wondered how white – the color most prone to staining – became such a staple in culinary culture, this article is for you! 

The Origin of Chefs’ White Uniforms 

Although the full history of chef uniforms is up for debate, most culinary experts and historians agree on the origin of the color white. According to the most widely accepted account, white chef’s clothing dates back to 1821, when a legendary French chef began wearing a white uniform (instead of the prominent color black, so as not to show soot from cooking over fires) to signify the pristine condition of his kitchen. 

The chef, named Marie-Antoine Carême, said he wore white to show those that ate his food how clean he was as a person and cook. This choice was a bold one at the time, with white being the color to most obviously show stains and spills. While naysayers might have believed the decision would only make for a messy Chef Carême, he proved them wrong by keeping his commands clean each day. 

The French chef disagreed with the common idea that chefs had to make a mess in the kitchen to craft good food. Instead, he believed that a good chef is a clean chef. He wore white to show his talent for keeping himself spot- and spill-free while whipping up the culinary creations that made him famous. Chefs that operate in keeping with the white command tradition today have Chef Carême to thank. 

Practical Benefits of Wearing White as a Chef 

White chef uniforms aren’t only a testament to the great Chef Marie-Antoine Carême or early culinary traditions – they also serve several practical purposes in modern-day kitchens. Outfitting yourself and your kitchen staff in white can display your cleanliness and encourage everyone to be more careful when cooking. White outfits can also lend the following attractive benefits for chefs:

  • Easy deep cleaning - One of the main benefits of wearing white as a chef is the ability to bleach your clothes. Bleach not only removes food stains but sanitizes clothing for healthier food preparation. Chefs cannot bleach colorful or dark-colored clothing, and therefore cannot clean them as easily as white commands.
  • Health benefits - The conspicuousness of stains and grime on white chef uniforms is part of what makes them so sanitary. Chefs can easily tell when they’ve spilled something and contaminated their uniforms. A quick change can keep the chef clean and prevent cross-contamination and bacteria growth. (This is especially relevant when cooking with raw meat.)
  • Cooling properties - The color white is reflective, while black and other dark colors are absorbent. Wearing white in the kitchen, therefore, can help keep chefs cooler. Repelling heat is important in hot and often cramped kitchens, where keeping sweat at bay is imperative to the health and sanitation of the restaurant. 

White isn’t just a traditional color, it is a functional practice for those who work in the kitchen. From easy clean-up to staying cool, white clothes simply make sense in the culinary world. With hundreds of years of history behind it, the color white isn’t falling out of style among chefs anytime soon. Although chefs can wear whatever color commands they want, white remains a popular status symbol for proud chefs around the world. 

Interested in adding more white to your chef’s wardrobe? Shop Fiumara Apparel today and browse our selections of white pants, coats, toques, and more.

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