The classic chef’s look of white jacket, checked trousers, and a tall hat, is one of the most recognizable uniforms in the world – and a smart chef knows how to use clothes to create the right image. Working as a chef is a highly respected profession – but professional kitchen life is incredibly demanding, and requires technical skill, energy, determination and resilience. What a chef wears must also be up to the job.
Chef’s ‘whites’, as they’re known, have a long tradition. They have remained the industry standard because they are the perfect design for life in a busy kitchen.
The professional chef’s jacket – traditionally white – is an archetype of style and function. It’s comfortable enough to wear all day, with great ease of movement, and it’s also long-lasting and sturdy enough to withstand frequent washing at high temperatures. The classic jacket design is double-fronted, with two rows of buttons – this means that if the front of the jacket gets stained with food, it can be re-buttoned with the other side on top, to look instantly clean and smart. Two layers of cotton in the jacket also insulate the body from the intense heat of a professional kitchen. Even the fastenings on a chef’s jacket have a special function – the two main types are cloth-covered buttons and removable studs, and both are designed to be strong enough to withstand frequent knocks from kitchen equipment such as hot pans, and repeated washing. Individual stud buttons can also be instantly replaced, if necessary.
Professional chef’s trousers are also a modern version of a classic design. They’re traditionally made of checked material in either black and white or blue and white – ideal for hiding all kinds of food stains. Different styles or colours of trousers are often used to show the different levels of status within a kitchen – with a head chef easily distinguished from the sous chefs.
Professional chef’s hats come in a wide range of designs – most famously the high-crowned white hats, instantly recognizable as the mark of a top chef. Similar styles have been worn with pride by chefs since the 16th century, and are known from the French for ‘white hat’ – ‘toque blanche’. Other contemporary styles of professional head-wear include skull caps, mobcaps and trilbies.
The demands of food hygiene and safety in the kitchen, as well as style, have shaped the other key elements of a professional chef’s outfit. Many chefs also wear a neckerchief – originally adopted to guard against heat but now more an expression of style. And anyone working in a professional kitchen must now wear protective shoes – again now available in all kinds of designs from clogs to boots. Other key requirements when kitting out the staff of a restaurant, include: hair-nets, aprons, tabards, name-tags, coats and work-wear, food service uniforms and front-of-house wear.
Most professional chefs still choose the pristine smartness of a white jacket, but there’s now a wide range of colours and styles – long-sleeved and short-sleeved, and personalized with embroidered logos; and also a huge variety of patterns in chef’s trousers – from stripes to giant checks. Whatever a chef’s individual look, they realize that their comfort, style and image at work have never been more important. From moments of creative inspiration in the kitchen, to greeting influential restaurant diners, the best chefs understand the power of wearing the right clothes. A fantastic range of chefs clothing, including everything mentioned in this article can be found at www.Russums.co.uk.