Uniforms in many occupations are important for a variety of reasons from making or giving a good impression, suggesting responsibility and producing a sense of unity in the workplace. Chef hats help to signify seniority in a kitchen and creating an air of respectability as well as having practical safety considerations. A chef hat is one of the most easily recognised hats in the world and can be found in kitchens in every country.
The iconic, tall white hat or toque blanche (French for white hat) is much more than just for show, it was first developed in France during the 16th century as a means of keeping the hair out of the food. One story is that one of the French kings got annoyed with his cook because he found a hair in his dinner so had the unfortunate cook beheaded. This started the practice of wearing a hat while working in the kitchen.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was uncommon for men and women to cut their hair this meant that many men had long hair. This often meant that the older the person the longer their hair would become, so with age goes with experience and seniority. The hats became taller to accommodate the longer hair. The older the chef the taller the hat, with the head chef being the oldest and having the tallest hat.
The hat is designed to hold its owners’ hair inside and stop any possibility of any getting in the food or hooked up in or on anything in the kitchen. The pleats or folds in the hat are said to represent the 100 different ways a chef is supposed to know how to prepare and cook an egg.
The traditional chef hat was always white to suggest cleanliness, but modern day kitchens have started to allow different colours to be introduced depending on the owner’s preference. Sometimes the whole chef uniform is coloured to match the branding of a particular establishment.
The local health departments usually require that a suitable hat is to be worn in the kitchen for hygienic reasons, but the exact type is dependent of the choice of the particular kitchen as long as the hair is suitably contained
The most popular type of chef hat is still the toque blanche, but this white hat can come in a variety of styles for starched cotton to disposable paper hats.
The skull cap is a favorite in many fast food restaurants, especially for people with short hair.
The Mob cap features an elastic opening and is ideal for those with long hair that can be tied back and placed inside the cap with the wearer’s whole hair line covered.
The head scarf is not so common these days, but is ideal for both long and short hair as it can be tied around your forehead and knotted at the back containing all your hair.
The hair net is most often used in industrial food manufacturing and large scale catering kitchens like schools, hospitals and airports where there are many employees. Hair nets are easy to use and work very well to keep your hear in check so are often favored by workers and management where they are out of the public view. They have the advantage they are cheap and can be kept in your pocket.