Fashion or Function – Which is More Important For a Chef’s Uniform?

chef's uniform

Visit many of the best eateries in NYC and you are likely to be served by waiting staff who are better dressed than you. While outfits for dining out have become more casual in recent times, the same cannot be said for restaurant uniforms. The emphasis is on smart but fashionable, at establishments such as Carbone. The uniform is all part of the overall ambience.

Fashion does not stop at the kitchen doors. Chefs are also moving away from traditional whites, and wearing everything from black aprons to multi-colored pants. The thirst for fashion, as well as practicality is the reason why chef wear design business Tilit has become such a sought after brand since Jenny Goodman and Alex McCrery started their design journey, back in 2002. Even designer chef’s outfits need to be practical though. They still have to take in the basic design principles of traditional uniforms.

The basic design of the toque

The toque, or chef’s hat, was based on the design used for hats worn by priests of the Orthodox Church. The original color was gray. The color was changed to white in the 19th Century, based on the design ideas of Chef Marie-Antoine Carême, who also came up with the idea of the height of the hat representing the seniority of the chef.

Photo by Capt. Jason Smith, U.S. Air Force
Photo by Capt. Jason Smith, U.S. Air Force

Design features of a chef’s jacket

The traditional chef’s jackets, that most people are familiar with, are white. The color was chosen as stains show up more easily, and it’s easier to bleach a white jacket. These jackets are made from double thickness material, to help protect chefs when hot materials are spilt in the kitchen. The jackets are also reversible, so that stains can be hidden away until the jacket is washed.

Chefs also often wear aprons which are made of the same materials, and with the same considerations in mind. They are not designed to be waterproof, in the face of a large amount of water.

How a chef’s pants are designed

In the past, chef’s pants were often patterned with black and white checks. This traditional design has given way to different colored patterns over the years. However, the pants are still normally designed to be loose, so that air can circulate easily. This is a necessary design factor when the pants are being worn by chefs who are working in hot kitchens all day long.

Now that designers, such as the team at Tilit, are on the scene, chef uniforms are becoming more known for being fashionable. However, much of the basic functionality is still required. Anyone who is working as a chef needs a uniform that is practical to wear in the kitchen environment, for hours at a time. The best chef wear designs take this into account, and factor in fashion and comfort as well. These uniforms cover all the bases, and mean that a chef can be comfortable and protected, as well as looking good.