A chef’s signature or mark of identity is usually the tall white culinary hat that they wear in a kitchen. There are different styles of hats but the most notable is a tall white hat that most experienced chefs love to wear in their places of expertise. The kitchen is expected to be exceptionally spotless at all times with no contamination. From a scientific point of view, covering your head helps to protect the neighboring surfaces from dirty hairs falling off from your head. There are lots of hats that are available to serve this purpose, but you’ll notice that as a code of conduct most cooks will prefer the tall culinary hats. Is it by chance or is the tradition backed by some history? Even chefs have a history.
A culinary hat that is specifically white is a mark of distinction for a chef. They come in varying heights depending on the choice or style of a particular individual. Early hats are as tall as 45 centimeters, though modern hats will range from 20 cm to 36 cm to offer a balance of style and comfort while working. Why white? The French prime minister in 1815 is believed to have inspired the choice of white in kitchen apparel. White symbolizes purity, and this acts as a reflection of hygienic conditions expected in such an environment.
How did these tall hats come to be? Other than protecting a chef’s hair from falling off, a popular story takes us back to the ancient era. It dates back to when the Byzantines made an attack on the Greek Kingdom. After this invasion, Greek chefs were forced to flee to neighboring forts and monasteries. To blend well with existing monks, they had to wear similar clothing that included tall hats. This tradition was maintained even after they gained back their freedom from the Byzantines. In a sign of unity, other kingdoms, including the French, adopted long hats as part of their culinary clothing set.
You’ll notice that different chefs will adopt varying heights of these hats, raising the question of the significance of height. Professionally, there are chefs who have a higher experience than their counterparts. The primary workspace for these experts is a kitchen where skills rather than word of mouth or certificate are applied. To make a distinction and show status for top cooks, they’ll normally go down in different hats that are either taller than the rest or come in unique styles.
It is not, however, written in stone that a taller hat will signify expertise under normal circumstances. This is just a way of some professionals applying respect and status in working environments. Modern trends are starting to replace Toques with individuals opting for more functionality rather than esthetics. Despite the growing trend, the place of a tall toque cannot be replaced since it’s a written signature for kitchen wear. As a professional, the kind of head cover you decide to put on will speak a statement about the kind of person you are. Most stereotypes still hold high regard for cooks who wear tall toques.