Types of Chefs Hats
In looking at the types of chefs hats worn in the kitchen today, I spent some time looking at the profession as a whole. In this post I will share a little of the information I found, such as the chef’s hat name, chefs hat history and types of chefs hats. I will also answer some of the questions more commonly asked about these.
The role of the chef in our social media rich world has changed over the last few years. With the rise of the ‘celebrity chef’ this has elevated the role, with the emergence of shows such as ‘Masterchef’, but we must remember that being a chef is a long standing tradition dating back way over 2000 years.
Chefs Hat Name
The traditional tall chefs hat was originally known as a Dodin Bouffant. These types of chef's hats as we see them on T.V. and in the media are more commonly known as a Toque. In its purest and most traditional form, a Toque is tall and stiff.
A more modern take on this type of chefs hat is made from fabric and is not stiff. It can be made in a variety of colors, and generally tends to flop over to the side. These are often made from disposable paper.
Chefs Hat History
The Henry VIII Story
One tale I came across while studying the chefs hat history involved the rather charming King henry VIII. It is said that upon finding a hair in his soup one day, the King literally called for the chefs head.
After this he made it a requirement for anyone preparing his food to cover their head. If you think about it, it was in a chef's best interest to prevent this from happening to them!
Seventh Century A.D. Assyria
One school of thought on the chef’s hat history dates back as far as the seventh century A.D. As the story goes many king in Assyria were being poisoned on a regular basis by chef’s who had for want of a better way of putting it ‘taken the hump’ with them.
One of the ways the Kings found to placate their angry chefs was to give them a special hat, which would set them apart from the more lowly kitchen help.
The Persecuted Chef
Its is also said that during this time it was required for chefs to read a great deal in order to understand cooking techniques and learn new recipes. In a world of non-readers, this was not cool, and the poor chefs were then persecuted for their ability to read.
It is said that chefs had to seek refuge in churches, where they dressed as monks, wearing traditional robes and head wear. These hats over time became the kind of chefs hats we know today.
The Story Of Poor Ventilation
Another fact or fiction story originates in roughly the 16th century. Some say that chefs hats came about in the kitchens of old castles and restaurants of Europe.
Due to an environment entirely lacking in ventilation, a mixture of ingredients and moisture would form on the ceilings into a kind of greasy paste.
This would then drip down onto the heads of the chefs and cooks working in the kitchens. In order to protect themselves from this falling grease, chefs fashioned early version of hats out of starched sheets, and would fill them with rags.
The Marie-Antoine Carême Story
In terms of the more traditional types of chefs hats we see today, the toque was said to be an invention of the French in the 1800s.
A chef at this time known as Marie-Antoine Carême felt that chefs were worthy of their own special uniform. As part of this uniform, chefs were to wear hats.
The color of white was chosen as a nod to the cleanliness of staff working in the kitchen, although I suspect it was more to do with white being used to show up stained and unclean clothing.
According to this story, the height of a chefs hat was a signal of their rank or seniority in the kitchen, basically the taller the hat, the more senior you were in the kitchen.
Why Do Chefs Wear Tall Hats?
In days gone by the height of a chefs hat signified their seniority in the kitchen. The taller the hat, the more senior the position the chef held.
Alongside this, some historians report that the number of pleats on a hat also signified a chef’s seniority.
According to some the number of pleats was specifically related to the number of ways a chef knew how to prepare or cook eggs.
Do Chefs have To Wear Hats?
While researching this I found a lot of competing views on the question ‘do chefs have to wear hats’? Most people seem to agree that the main reason a chef wears a hat is that of hygiene.
Kitchens can be hot and sweaty places, and the wearing of a hat will stop sweat from dripping into a customer’s food. They are also used to stop hair from falling into food.
Many people suggest that the requirement to wear a hat boils down to company policy, with more progressive establishments opting for these not to be worn, with longer hair simply tied back.
However, certainly within the United States it would appear that these are actually are a requirement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in their 2017 Food Code state that it is a requirement for employees working in food preparation to wear hats, hair nets or other restraints to prevent hair from falling into food.
So in answer to the question ‘do chefs have to wear hats’ it would appear that theoretically an actual hat is not required, rather something that will cover the hair and prevent it from falling into food.
Types of Chefs Hats
As discussed above, the Toque is the most traditional of the types of chefs hats that you will see in the kitchen today. It can be tall and stiff, made from a firmer material, and in a traditional white color.
It can also be made from fabric or disposable paper, and can come in and endless variety of colors.
When looking at types of chefs hats, there are others available that can be worn instead of the more traditional style. A beanie is a style of hat that may be worn by chef’s other than the head chef.
These are normally, white, black or chequered, although in less traditional kitchens other colors are worn.
Beanies are often made from paper or soft material, and is fitted closely to the head. They are often kept in place with elastic or a back tie.
Another of the types of chefs hats available to wear in the kitchen today come in the form of bandanas.
These are useful in that they absorb sweat in the heated working environment.
They can come in a variety of colors, and can be worn on the head in a variety of ways as well as in other places such as the wrist or neck.