We’re all familiar with a chef’s usual attire – the tall hat that looks like a soufflé, the buttoned-down white shirt, maybe an apron and almost always those checked trousers. If you work in catering yourself, you probably wonder if you’ll ever feel stylish at work again, after all, loose checked trousers aren’t seen on the catwalk very often, are they?
The whys of chefs’ attire
In previous decades, it wasn’t too bad to have to wear chef’s whites and checks, because these hard-workers were rarely seen outside the kitchen anyway. Plus, those clothes have a serious purpose. The loose trousers are to lessen the effects of hot oils or sauces spilling down the legs and the checked pattern (actually houndstooth) is meant to camouflage any small spots and spills that inevitably accumulate during a long shift.
The tunics also multitask – they’re made of thick cotton fabric and the front is double-layered to protect the body area most vulnerable to hot food and flames.
Those loose trousers should stay loose, then. They protect legs and are easy to remove if disaster strikes, like a deluge of hot sauce or even flames.
The tunics, however, have a bit of wiggle room. They’re usually white so they can be bleached back to perfection, but in recent years there have been more colour options. There are now soft greys and dark blues, which can hide stains during a shift and then be cleaned with an enzyme laundry liquid.
With chefs becoming more visible, both on TV and in restaurants, many in the profession think their attire should be more stylish. They’re right, which is why there are more tunics and shirts which are figure-hugging, for men and women, as well as eye-catching buttons and studs down the fronts.
No more soufflé hats!
The toque blanche used to indicate rank in a kitchen,but now it just looks a bit old-fashioned and elitist. Hats have to be worn as they prevent hair from falling into food; however, these days, a clean bandana or a colourful close fitting smaller hat/cap (perhaps with matching neckerchief) is as likely to grace the head of a head chef as a toque!