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Why Do Chefs Wear Tall Hats: A History Overview

Chefs With Hats Taking Orders

When you enter a restaurant, you can instantly tell who the Chef is by their attire.

They’re typically dressed in a double-breasted jacket that features knotted cloth buttons, loose-fitting pants with a houndstooth pattern, an apron and a distinct tall white hat.

In this article, we talk about the reasons why Chefs wear these hats, the different types of Chef hats and the history behind them.

The Historical Significance of Tall Chef Hats

Tall Chef hats, as we know them today, originated in the 16th century in France.

Their initial purpose was to signify the rank of the wearer and to make them stand out in larger crowds.

Marie-Antoine Carême, a legendary French Chef in the 1800s, made wearing a Chef hat as popular and widespread as it is today.

At first, Chef hats weren’t all white. A French Chef by the name of Boucher insisted that all Chef hats be white to indicate cleanliness.

Auguste Escoffier, another French Chef and former army soldier was responsible for implementing the kitchen brigade system. Also known as “Brigade de Cuisine”, the kitchen brigade is a hierarchy system similar to the one used in the military.

In this hierarchy, the bigger the Chef hat, the higher the rank in the kitchen. The Head Chef and Executive Chef are the ones with the tallest Chef hats.

Practical Functions of Tall Chef Hats

Besides having a symbolic meaning, tall Chef hats also have practical functions.

For starters, a Chef’s hat prevents hair and sweat from dropping onto food.

While you might not be forced to wear tall professional Chef hats in every food-serving establishment, you’ll probably be asked to at least wear bandanas, beanies, baseball caps or skull caps for hygienic purposes.

Another practical function of tall hats is that they help dissipate heat. If you’ve ever been in a commercial kitchen, you know just how hot it can get. The pleats of Chef hats allow the wearer to stay cool in hot kitchen environments. This is due to the fact that pleats have pockets of air that help dissipate heat.

Lastly, Chef hats provide protection for the Chef’s hair. This is especially true for Chefs who have longer hair. While those Chefs will almost always have their hair tied, it can still pose a fire hazard.

Design and Structure of Tall Chef Hats

As already mentioned, Chef hats are traditionally white and made with pleats. Most are made out of cloth, but there are some paper alternatives as well.

There’s a fun anecdote that the number of pleats on the hat represents the number of ways the Chef wearing the hat can cook an egg.

The truth is that different styles of Chef hats feature a different number of pleats.

How Tall Chef Hats Are Used Today

Nowadays, tall Chef hats are rarely worn in professional kitchens. They might be required in certain Michelin-star restaurants and some five-star hotels, but most restaurants and kitchens don’t make them mandatory.

In fact, most kitchen staff wear some other type of Chef hat, such as a skull cap, baseball cap, beanie hat, bandana, head wrap or catering hat.




FAQs About Chef Hats

“Toque Blanche” is the French name for Chef hats, which literally translates to “white hats”.

Yes. In fact, many Chefs wear personalized hats if their establishment allows them to in order to showcase their individuality.

It depends. Some establishments still use them, but most don’t. Also, most establishments require their Chefs and Cooks to wear some type of headwear for hygienic and protective purposes.

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