Why Do Chefs Wear White Coats?

Why Do Chefs Wear White Coats?

One of the most instantly recognizable articles of clothing in the world is the chef’s coat. Hanging in the closet, laying on a bed, or patrolling a kitchen, the chef’s coat is a carefully-chosen symbol of the restaurant world. The coat’s timeless form is fully-functional, and it has utilitarian design without any regard for fashion. Ask any chef and they will tell you, in great detail, about the first time they put one on.

The first known depiction of the modern chef uniform was in an 1822 sketch by French artist Marie-Antoine Carême. In it, there are two chefs wearing the double-breasted coats, tall hats, loose pants, and aprons. It would still be 50 years until this uniform became the norm for chefs everywhere.

Why Do Chefs Wear Coats?

Some chefs prefer to wear an apron, but you will be hard-pressed to find a chef that doesn’t wear a white coat under it. It’s an important symbol for chefs everywhere. It signifies that they are an accomplished chef who has earned their coat and they know what they’re doing in a kitchen. A larger status symbol does not exist in the culinary world; there is a regal air about it.

While fashionable, the jacket’s every aspect is carefully thought out and planned. The heavy cotton material insulates the wearer from the intense heat inside a kitchen and is still breathable, keeping the chef as cool as possible. Spills are absorbed quickly by the heavy material as well. Long sleeves are requisite for further protection when reaching over a hot stove and open flames; plus, it protects the chef from cuts and scrapes. Knotted cloth buttons are used because metal ones can get hot, and plastic ones can break apart and fall into the food.

Why White?

White is the preferred color because it gives patrons the sense that the chef is in an influential and powerful position. White is also a symbol of cleanliness, giving the perception that everything in the kitchen is professional and sanitary. That feeling is important to instill in diners, so they don’t worry about foodborne illness. The more practical reason is that white hides stains better. At the end of the night, a white coat is washed with bleach and the stains disappear. Unlike black, white deflects heat better and keeps the chef cooler in the kitchen.

Most chefs will always have three coats on hand. One to work in, a second backup in case one gets too many stains on it, and a third to change into for glad-handing. They need to have a clean, pressed coat to put on to greet important guests and VIPs.

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