Chef’s uniforms are standard in all fine restaurants; the white uniform denotes cleanliness and makes other employees aware of the chef’s elevated status within the kitchen. Standard uniforms for chefs include a white hat and a double-breasted white cotton jacket known in the industry as “whites”. Easily bleached, white uniforms always appear clean to restaurant patrons. Many of the chef and staff uniforms can be purchased at sites like chefworks.com.
The iconic chef’s white double-breasted jacket is more than just a piece of clothing; the long sleeved jacket provides protection for chefs from the dangers of the kitchen. Chefs need uniforms to protect them from burns, searing heat and spilled liquids. White jackets repel heat from burners and ovens, providing the chef with a small amount of relief from the ever-present heat from cooking. Hot liquids that splatter land on the uniform, allowing the wearer to remove his or her jacket quickly, before the burning sauce or boiling hot oil can burn skin. Stains are easily hidden with double-breasted jackets, as they are reversible.
The traditional chef’s uniform also includes a toque, the brimless pleated white hat. Traditionally, the head chef wears the highest hat, while other, lesser chefs and cooks wore shorter hats. The higher the hat, the more air circulates under the hat, keeping the chef cool. The chef’s hat is necessary to prevent hairs from accidentally falling into food being prepared in the kitchen and to help catch perspiration.
Traditional chef’s uniforms may include black and white checkered or pinstripe trousers. The patterned trousers hide stains, which are inevitable in a busy kitchen.
Chef’s uniforms are necessary for the chef’s protection but the uniform also portrays the chef’s professionalism, which appeals to restaurant patrons. Whenever a chef is in public view, he or she should be in clean whites, sans apron if the chef occasionally wears an apron in the kitchen.