When you become a chef, you typically receive the uniform to fit the profession. You expect to wear that tall white hat and the fitted jacket with pride as you turn out one delicious masterpiece after another.
But have you ever questioned how this uniform came to be and the history behind it?
Origins of the Chef Hat
The classic tall white hat has several myths behind its origin. Otherwise known as a toque, the hat was first worn in the 16th century. During that time, many artisans often hid away in monasteries to avoid prosecution for their creative activity. The toques closely resembled the ones worn by the monks, only with a gray hue to differentiate from the monk’s black headwear.
Another myth dating back before the seventh century A.D. tells the tale that chefs in Assyria wore the crown-like hats to differentiate themselves from the kitchen help. But why? Turns out the Kings were frequently poisoned out of jealousy and resentment. In hopes to make the indignant chefs feel special and honored, they were presented the unique hat.
One fact is sure, that chefs took refuge from the church. It’s also known around the same time, chefs were considered educated men due to their ability to read and learn new recipes. Unfortunately, brains didn’t grant you respect, it usually got you persecuted. Chefs flocked to the Greek Orthodox Church where they also wore uniforms that resembled the monks.
Design of the Chef Hat
Now that we know why they were created, what about that snazzy design? Marie-Antoine Carame, commonly known as the Chef of Kings or the King of chefs played a huge role in the culinary arts including the organization and division of labor in kitchens today. To designate the stature in the kitchen, his cooks wore hats of various heights. Carame, being the Head Chef always wore the tallest hat. it’s rumored his hat reigned 18 inches high and needed to be reinforced with cardboard to stand tall.
The pleats in a chef’s hat correspond to a very important ingredient in the kitchen – eggs. The number of pleats indicates the number of ways a chef can prepare an egg. A hat with 100 pleats is considered to be the “ultimate” number to be obtained. Chef hats today do not typically have that many pleats, but they still signify the level of experience.
Carame can also be credited with the fashion and color behind the hat. He introduced the idea that chefs deserved a uniform and selected the color white because is signified cleanliness in the kitchen.
The Chef Hat in today’s society
Today the chef hat remains a symbol of the profession and knowledge of culinary arts. Not all chefs wear the traditional hat, but many executive chefs save the traditional toques for those in charge. The chef hat is a tradition that has last many years and will last many years to come.
Shop Chef Hats Now
Below are some of the most popular chef hats we sell. To see more offerings please visit our complete chef hats listing page.
Basic White Chef Hat
Tall (European) Chef Hat
Black Chef Hat