The traditional chef's uniform (or chef's whites) includes a toque blanche (traditional hat), white double-breasted jacket, and houndstooth-patterned, black and white pants. It is a common occupational uniform in the Western world.
The double breasted jacket can be reversed to hide stains. The thick cotton cloth protects from the heat of stove and oven and protects from splattering of boiling liquids. Knotted cloth buttons were used to survive frequent washing and contact with hot items. White is intended to signify cleanliness and is generally worn by highly visible head chefs. Aprons shield the wearer's garments from food splatters and stains.
The toque is a chef's hat that dates back to the 16th century. Different heights may indicate rank within a kitchen, and they are designed to prevent hair from falling into the food when cooking. The 100 folds of the toque are said to represent the many different ways a chef knows to cook an egg. In more traditional restaurants, especially traditional French restaurants, the white chef’s coat is standard and considered part of a traditional uniform and as a practical chef's garment. Most serious chefs wear white coats to signify the importance and high regard of their profession. Senior kitchen staff are also identified by their black trousers. These embellishments of uniform also serve as an indicator between the bounds of salaried, and casual or part-time staff.
Chefs' clothing remains a standard in the food industry. The tradition of wearing this type of clothing dates back to the mid-19th century. Marie-Antoine Careme, a popular French chef, is credited with developing the current chef’s uniform. The toques were already used, but he sought a uniform to honour the chef. White was chosen for the chef's coat to signify cleanliness. Later, the French master chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, brought the traditional chef's coat to London, managing the restaurants at the Savoy Hotel and then at the Carlton Hotel. Chefs wear cooking aprons because they are dealing with a variety of food ingredients for many hours each day and have to have a means of keeping their clothing free from dirt, stains and odors.
- Kitchen uniforms: Why do chefs wear white? Chicago Defender November 5, 2008 | Blackmon, David
- Traditional chef's hat stirs kitchen debate Chicago Sun-Times April 4, 1991 | Caroline E. Mayer
- "Chef's Uniforms - Traditional Cooking Aprons". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.