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Exploring the origins of chef's whites, we find out why comfort and safety has become just as important as looking good. Read on to understand where the modern chef's uniform came from…

Like many things in life, dressing the part can really help you feel the part. So having the right chef's uniform is essential to feeling professional and giving you the confidence to produce outstanding results in the kitchen.

Let's look at where the chef's uniform came from and how it's come to resemble the outfit we're all familiar with today.

Cooking for the King

From the 14th century onwards, soldiers were selected to become cooks for their travelling armies. The cooks would follow their knights into castles, where they were required to cook lavish feasts for kings and nobility. Since cooks could also be sent into battle at any time, they wore double breasted jackets - similar to the modern chef's jacket, although luckily the greatest foe you're likely to encounter nowadays is a harsh food critic.

A professional look

French chef Marie-Antoine Careme is credited with inspiring the modern chef's uniform and he championed chef's whites as a way to signify professionalism and the cleanliness of his kitchens. Careme also introduced the toque - the tall chef's hat which was worn by executive chefs to make them easily identifiable in case any of the less experienced cooks needed to find them for guidance in a crowded kitchen. Did you know the folds in the toque were also supposed to represent the myriad of ways a chef could cook an egg?

During the 19th century, French Master Chef Georges Auguste Escoffier continued the tradition by encouraging his staff to wear their uniforms outside the kitchen too, as he believed this gave his employees an air of respectability. Later, Escoffier brought the tradition to the UK when he managed restaurants in London's Savoy and Carlton hotels.

And it's no coincidence that working in a kitchen can feel like a regimented affair…Escoffier also championed the popular brigade system which has its roots in European military organisations and relies on a hierarchy of authority, responsibility and function.

The celebrity choice

Today white remains a popular choice for professional chefs. But black or checked pattern trousers are also common, since stains are less noticeable on dark fabric.

Many contemporary celebrity chefs are a little more flamboyant with their workwear - think of the dress-down style of Jamie Oliver or the Fabulous Baker Brothers, Ainsley Harriot's floral shirts, or the bow ties and waistcoats of Anton Mosimann or the late Keith Floyd. Yet traditional chef's whites still reign supreme amongst celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsey, who prefer to let their food do the talking.

Modern comfort and safety

While a professional appearance is important, the outfit is also an essential tool in the kitchen, and modern designs are created with the highest level of comfort and safety in mind. Lockhart Catering will soon be launching their Brigade Chef Clothing range ; a new line of both long and short sleeve jackets, tunics and trousers, with several key features to keep you both safe and comfortable while at work.

The new chef's uniforms are made with polycotton which is both hardwearing and breathable, plus underarm eyelets offer added ventilation. Remember: if you can't stand the heat…you should try out one of these.

Picture of the new Brigade Chef Clothing range from Lockhart
The new Brigade Chef Clothing range from Lockhart

Popper fastenings mean you can remove the jacket or trousers quickly if hot oil is spilled, and long sleeves protect arms your from hot stoves and ovens. Both the Chef's Comfort Fit Trousers and Executive Chef Trousers come with an elasticated waist for a comfort fit.

The chef's uniform may have evolved over the centuries, yet continues to represent culinary excellence in the kitchen.

So make sure you look out for further updates on our blog about the launch of the Brigade clothing range.  Products will be available to order from our website very soon.

What's your preferred chef's uniform?"


Lockhart Catering on 19 March 2013 1:02 AM

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