Why do chefs wear white?

Chef whites are a proud tradition in the world of hospitality. Although in the present day they are not widespread, they still remain a hallmark of quality. A chef wearing white commands respect and shows a well-regarded kitchen. But why do chefs wear white? And how did it begin?

The origins

Legendary French chef Marie-Antoine Carême is largely credited with creating the chef’s uniform. He created the uniform in the mid-19th century for a number of reasons. Firstly, Carême chose white to signify cleanliness. But isn’t it part of a chef’s job to make a mess and suffer the odd spillage? According to Carême, no. A good chef is a clean chef, one that is able to work without staining their uniform.

However, accidents happen, and that’s another reason why Carême chose white. Should a chef dirty their uniform, white is the most noticeable colour. A quick change reduces any risk of health hazards, such as cross-contamination and allergens. White can also be bleached, so stains aren’t permanent. Additionally, white is also reflective, repelling heat instead of absorbing it.

Completing the look

The chef’s jacket is an integral part of the uniform. It’s one of the most important items of clothing a chef can own, and every aspect of it has been carefully thought out. The jackets are usually double-breasted, so if the inevitable stain does occur, a chef can simply reverse the flaps. Furthermore, the buttons are knotted and not made of plastic, and can come undone quickly in the event of an emergency.

Another well-renowned aspect of the uniform is the toque, a chef’s hat. The height of the toque signifies the rank of the chef, so a head chef’s toque will stand the tallest. In addition, the folds in the hat allegedly signify the many ways to cook an egg.

In modern times, chefs’ uniforms often change depending on the style of the restaurant. For example, one that promotes casual clothing will often mean chefs wear something less traditional. However, chef whites are still an integral part of some of the world’s most aspirational restaurants where the finer details are never overlooked, something our Glion undergraduate students are well versed in with their foundation in Practical Arts.

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