Rumour has it that the numerous folded pleats in a chef’s toque were first added to signify the 100 ways a chef can cook an egg. It is also believed that the famous French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême wore a staggering 45cm tall toque in the 1800’s. In order to indicate his high status in the kitchen proving that fashion and function will often be at odds.
Luckily today’s chef attire manages to incorporate both fashion and function seamlessly. After all, being a chef is an achievement to be proud of, and one should look good, however, catching on fire is not advisable. Below we answer the four most common questions that arise when choosing a chef uniform.
Colour: Should you stick to traditional white or mix it up?
Chefs are renowned for their creativity and desire to express themselves. So it’s no wonder that more people are opting for brightly coloured outfits in the kitchen. But, before you dash off to have twenty uniforms made in your restaurant’s brand colours, make sure you weigh up the pros and cons. There are a number of reasons why white has been the go-to chef’s colour for the past two hundred years.
Firstly white signifies cleanliness and purity. If someone associates a chef with being clean, they automatically assume the kitchen is too.
But what about keeping the uniform clean? Surely more stains show up on white? Well, they do initially. However, you can easily bleach a white uniform and have it back looking new and fresh within an hour or two. When it comes to colourful clothes, it’s a lot more challenging to get rid of stains without fading the colours or leaving bleach spots.
A final point to keep in mind is that white tends to reflect heat instead of absorbing it as black does.
What fabric works best for chef uniforms?
Synthetic fibres are simply not an option when one is working near open flames, as the material will likely melt. Opt for natural fibres such as 100% cotton, which is more heat resistant.
It is also advisable to check whether the material has been chemically treated. Specific coatings will repel liquids, which will limit stains in case spills, and accidents occur. The fabric should also be flame retardant and thick enough to ensure a stray knife won’t easily pierce it.
How do I know what the right fit is?
The fit of a chef’s jacket plays a big role in both comfort and hygiene. We recommend that the jacket has approximately 10cm worth of extra room around the body. This is to make sure the wearer is comfortable and can move freely and quickly.
It is critical, however, that the jacket, and especially the sleeves are not too loose as they will hook and snag on oven knobs and pot handles. Properly fitted jackets will go a long way in ensuring that no fabric makes contact with the food.
Are buttons and detailing important?
Most traditional chef uniforms have a double breast. This adds a sense of regality to the outfit but also has many practical benefits. The double layer offers extra protection from heat and flames. It also provides a clever way for chefs to hide spills by switching the fabric and buttoning the jacket on the opposite side.
Speaking of buttons, it’s generally best to avoid flimsy plastic or metal ones and instead look for knotted cloth buttons or high-quality studs. The last thing anyone wants is a broken piece of plastic landing in a pot.
How do I make sure the uniforms remain clean and hygienic?
Nothing ruins a restaurant’s reputation faster than a case of food poisoning. It is crucial to take proper care of the chefs’ uniforms to minimise this risk. If the jackets are 100% cotton you can, and should, launder them at high temperatures to remove any contamination. It is also a good idea to wash and store all chef clothing at the restaurant. This is because travelling back and forth in uniform will easily attract germs.
Need more help? Let’s chat
Sweet-Orr has been crafting protective wear for 150 years and our garments are made to meet the highest possible standards. If you’re looking for protective workwear for kitchen staff or would like to speak to a consultant visit our Cape Town or Boksburg Showroom or contact us. Our chef uniforms meet the highest food safety standards and are durable, practical and comfortable.