There is a long history involved with chef hats; they go all the way back to two thousand years ago in Assyria. Back then, chefs wore hats that were similar to crowns as a way to visually separate them from other employees in the kitchen.
Later, in the 1500’s in Europe, people who were artists, intellectuals, and were generally educated were being jailed and often executed. Chefs were included in this group because they had to know how to read and write in order to understand and record their recipes.
In order to hide from the persecuting government officials, chefs would hide in monasteries and pretend to dress as a member of the clergy. Thus, the beginnings of the chef hat were born.
A few hundred years later, in France, a chef?s hat became known as a toque. This hat is the hat most people think of when they imagine what a chef wears on his or her head. It is a tall, brimless, stiff and white hat.
A famous chef in France decided to add pleats around the edges of the toque. The more pleats on the hat, the more distinguished and more experienced the chef. At one point, each pleat stood for a different way the chef knew how to cook an egg.
Also, if the hat was taller than the other hats in the kitchen, then that chef was known as the head chef. Some of these hierarchical symbols on the hat of a chef are still in use today.
The toque is the first type of chef headwear, and it is divided into two types. One type is the traditional toque; this toque is the tall, stiff white hat most people recognize.
However, instead of being made with fabric, many of these traditional toques are now made with paper so that they are disposable in the event that they are damaged with food or liquid in the kitchen.
The other type of toque is a shorter, more modern, can be colorful depending on the chef’s personal preferences, and leans over to one side. These hats are known as the most prestigious type of headwear you can have in the kitchen.
Thus, if you see someone wearing this type of toque in the kitchen at a restaurant, you know that person is probably in charge of the other employees in the kitchen.
Next, there is a type of chef headwear called a beanie. Beanies can be similar to hairnets in that they often have a mesh surface so that hair is kept in, but the air can circulate so that the person?s head does not get too hot.
Beanies are often black, white, or checkered. They are made out of permanent fabric if it is an expensive, high quality beanie. Those beanies can be washed and re-used.
However, most beanies, similar to the modern toque, are made out of disposable plastic or paper and are to be thrown away after each shift. Beanies are typically worn by line cooks and prep cooks.
They can also be referred to as hair nets or bonnets, and are attached to the person?s head either by an elastic band that is built into the net, or by a drawstring or ribbon.
Another popular choice for chefs, cooks, and other kitchen employees is to wear baseball caps or other informal hat. Cooks and chefs alike need some type of head gear to prevent their hair from getting into the food.
At less traditional or less high end establishments, often the head chef will not mind if his staff wears baseball caps or skull caps. Sometimes these types of hats can serve a double purpose because they can advertise the restaurant or certain food brands.
Bars, taverns, and casual dining eateries often have themes, so baseball caps with logos can go a long way in promoting their brand. The restaurant can order customized baseball caps with the name of the restaurant on them, and then sell them to customers. Baseball caps, then, are not only for the chef, but serve a larger purpose.
Overall, no matter what the chef puts on his or her head, whether it is a toque, beanie, or baseball cap, every cook and chef around the world now has plenty of choices when deciding how to look when working in the kitchen.