Often do we find uniforms for different occupations strange and thought-provoking. While some may think of those uniforms as a mere part of fashion, others realize that there exists an underlying rich, long history for them. Similar is the case with that quintessential chef’s hat that you might have found strange and peculiar. All those figurative head coverings by chefs out there in comestibles might serve different purposes. But there is one type that is bona fide and provides a clear-cut contradistinction from others: a long white hat, formally termed ‘toque’; from an Arabic word that implies ‘hat.’
Generally, a chef’s hat is called a toque, a term that has existed for quite a few centuries but, it gained popularity because of French exposure to this term. It was the French people who first adopted this term for a culinary hat. Later in the early 19th century, this term was modified as a toque Blanche, which means a white hat.
In places, chef hats are meant for kitchen elites only and not for every kitchen worker like dishwashers or prep cooks. Similarly, people may define the purpose of a chef’s hat as a protector of food from getting contaminated. It is true, as that offers a safe solution to protect food from getting messed with sweat or hair fall. As stated, the purpose of a chef’s hat varies according to people’s mindset.
For the cooking staff, proper dressing for the kitchen is a must, and many popular brands have a set of rules put in place for their culinary uniform. Chef hats usually come with a Velcro tape adjustable back strap. While putting it on, hair needs to be kept up, tucked inside the hat. For people with long hair, a hair net is first put in place to tuck hair above the head, and then the chef’s hat is put in place.
As of today, chefs wear formal skull caps, a simple hair protection net, or a baseball cap. Cooking staff in different regions of the world use more functional headwear. Yet, toque is still common in masses and can be seen quite often from time to time. It does more than just add a pull together to a chef’s overall get-up. Chef’s hat often strikes up a deep sense of curiosity in people’s minds. No matter how peculiar it seems, it is one of the very bold pieces of uniform for experienced chefs as they regard it as a symbol of respect and dignity for them.
A purpose served by a chef’s hat differs according to the beliefs and customs of people. Here are a few of the most implied reasons for a chef’s hat. Chef hats are often pleated, having a few or multiple folds. It is because they serve a two fold purpose; on one side, they add a form of fashion and style to the chef’s attire. Additionally, these pleats depict the experience level of the chef. The more the pleating on a hat, the more experienced chef a person is.
Many pleats on a chef’s hat depicts the number of ways a chef knows how to complete a recipe for one item. For example, a 150 pleats chef hat might show that a chef knows 150 ways of preparing chicken. Although this purpose is dangling in the air in present days, these held weights previously. However, the pleats are sure to represent the experience level of the chef. Even if there are only a few of them in a hat, they hold their significance.
Similarly, the height of the hat holds special significance and has a purpose of its own in the culinary dictionary of the chefs. This significance, like others, has evolved with time such that in the earlier 19th century, the taller height of the cap depicts a well experienced and acknowledged chef, while the reverse was correct for the shorter ones. Another pretext highlights its importance in portraying the master chef or the head of cooking staff in the kitchen. Today, even though the heights of the chef’s hat aren’t that tall yet, they still hold their purpose and value.
Another popular question that pops into the mind of curious people is why white? Precisely, this too has history involved in it. According to history, it was a personal culinary expert of the first prime minister of France, Charles Tallyrand, who considered white for chef’s hat. He thought of white as a color that depicts a deep sense of hygiene and cleanliness compared to other colors. Word also has it that the origin of a chef’s hat dates to the 146 BCE Era. It was when the chef’s from Greece took shelter in monasteries from the fear of war between the Byzantium Empire and Greece. To blend in, these chefs adopted the attire of those monastery monks.