It’s all about the humble Chef Uniform!
Chef wear has a long tradition dating back hundreds of years to the monasteries of Medieval Europe. The original Chefs did not wear a uniform, as we know it today. When the aristocracies were being overthrown the artisans including what we now call ‘chefs’ sought refuge in the catholic and Greek orthodox monasteries run by the monks. The kind monks accepted these artists, sculptures and cooks and dressed them in the same robes they wore but rather than the pious dark coloured robes worn by monks they gave the artisans un-dyed robes. In this way the cooks and other artisans looked like novice or apprentice monks and could easily be disguised as being part of the traditional order. Over time the robes were modified into a white apron and full covering coat. As fashion trends took over the Napoleonic style double-breasted front, scarfs and tall hats became a part of the chef attire. From about 1700 the basic chef attire we see today was born.
Something happened in 1986 when a chef cooked up some kitchen fashion and changed the world of chef wear forever.
Gone were the days of out dated fashion and ill-fitting kitchen attire with little or no choice. For chefs cooking in modern commercial kitchen environments the chef’s presentation and appearance became increasingly more important as a new trend toward open style kitchens was born. The humble chef was now on display, like actors on a stage, costume became important. It was not too long ago chefs were hidden out back and seldom seen. This shift in thinking has seen chefs becoming TV celebrities. Chef were now proud to be chefs and wanted to look like chefs. This meant the humble chef uniform was now an important visual tool to promote as part of the overall restaurant design. Colours, cleanliness and a modern professional look have become not just important but a necessary factor in modern commercial kitchen design.
The trend toward reviving the humble chef uniform started in Australia back in 1986 when, as the story goes, a young working chef bought an old singer sewing machine and started making and selling a few chef uniforms with a label on the outside. Since then the world of uniform manufacturers has split and specialized and these days you can find Specialist Chef Uniform Companies all over the world. Chef uniform brands are found online, in hospitality equipment stores or via mobile door-to-door salespeople. Generally chefs aim to choose a uniform that makes them look and feel great. Brands vary in quality and price so seeking a brand that has a good reputation makes a big difference to longevity. Sometimes restaurants buy uniforms for their kitchen team to ensure a uniformed appearance to reflect the restaurant image.
Next time you dine out take a glance at what the food artisans in the kitchen are wearing and tell your friends a little about the history of the humble chef uniform.