Chefs wear uniforms just like any other professional, but instead of trying to impress clients, their uniform's goal is practicality and sanitation.
Those who are new to the industry may not know how to choose chef clothing, or which items are needed. To complicate matters even more, you'll find that chefs wear a combination of fabric and disposable items.
Our handy guide will help you choose the best chef clothing and accessories for the job.
Fabric Chef Clothing Items
Fabric items are permanent, meaning that you'll wear them daily. Because you'll be wearing these garments on a regular basis, it's important to choose quality chef clothing.
High-quality clothing items will give you years of use with the right care. Your list of fabric items should include:
Chef hats come in both disposable and fabric options. Fabric is preferred because it's higher quality and will provide better protection.
There are few options when it comes to designs, but the "toque" style is what most people think of when they think of chef's hats. Their design dates back to the 16th century.
A hat will help keep hair out of the food, but it can also indicate rank in the kitchen. The taller the hat, the higher the rank in some in some restaurants.
Here's a fun fact: Toque hats have 100 folds, which are said to represent the many different ways chefs know how to cook an egg.
Aprons protect the clothing underneath it from stains. It's worth the extra cost to invest in apron made with quality materials, as they offer superior protection.
With a flimsy apron, there's always a chance that a spill – especially wine – can bleed through onto the clothing underneath it.
Many professional-quality aprons also have deep, heavy-duty pockets where chefs can store their tools, like kitchen shears.
Some chef aprons are made with flame-resistant materials, so there's less worry about clothing catching fire while in the kitchen.
Of all the chef clothing and shoes you can buy, the jacket is the most important. Considered an essential part of the chef's uniform, jackets are the most expensive piece of the puzzle. But they also play a big role in protecting the chef and providing a professional look.
Most jackets are made with double-thick cotton for added protection against hot spills and fire. It's easy to get a little too close to the stove when taste-testing your sauce. If you're wearing street clothes, your sleeves could easily catch fire. But with a chef's jacket, that wouldn't happen.
Safety is the main reason to wear a chef's jacket, but it also makes you look professional.
When working in the kitchen, pants can either be your friend or your foe. Ideally, chef's pants should match your jacket and hat to create a professional look.
But they should also fit properly and be comfortable to wear.
You'll find that most of the pants sold in chef clothing stores are breathable and have drawstring waists for easy fitting.
In a restaurant setting, cooks may wear t-shirts instead of a jacket. With the right style and materials t-shirts can provide the same level of protection and professionalism while keeping everyone cool.
Ultimately, the style chosen will depend on health codes and the restaurant's goals.
Disposable Clothing Items
Along with permanent uniform items, chefs may also wear disposable items that are thrown away at the end of the day or after certain tasks are completed.
These disposable items include:
A chef's hat is designed to keep hair out of food, but they don't do as good of a job as a hairnet.
Food and safety regulations require employees and cooks to wear hairnets to keep hair and other potential contaminants out of the food.
Disposable shoe covers protect footwear in the kitchen, help keep floors as clean as possible and can also help prevent slips when liquids are dropped on the floor.
While not a requirement in all restaurants, some cooks wear shoe covers voluntarily to protect their shoes from added wear and tear.
Unfortunately, conventional hair nets do not cover beards. And just like the hair on your head, the hair in a beard can also fall off and land in the food being prepared.
Beard covers help prevent this from happening.
Easy to wear and made with breathable material, beard covers are mandatory in most kitchens for health and safety reasons.
When a conventional chef jacket is unnecessary, a disposable lab coat may suffice. While not as high quality as a chef's jacket, these coats will protect clothing from spills and may be a good option for cooks.
Many models are made with polyethylene, which is resistant to oil, grease and water.
Ultimately, chefs clothing provides protection while creating a professional look. Aprons and jackets protect the shirts and pants chefs wear underneath. Hats, hairnets and beard covers keep hair out of food. Shoe covers keep a chef's shoes clean while helping prevent slips in the kitchen.
Not sure where to buy chef clothing? Check out our catalog for high-quality fabric and disposable options.