Culinary Student Uniforms: Why are they Important in the Kitchen?

Culinary Student Uniforms: Why are they Important in the Kitchen?

As with many professional occupations, the chef world has its own uniform that, with minor variations, can be found in many restaurant kitchens around the world. You might not see it in fast-food, greasy-spoon, or street-stall establishments, but a fancier sit-down restaurant is likely to require its main kitchen staff -- including culinary students -- to wear a variation of the chef's hat, jacket, long pants, and sensible shoes. Far from being a random choice, these uniforms have practical value and were created specifically to address what chefs face daily in the kitchen.

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Chef Safety

Safety is the most important basis for much of the uniform's format. Every piece of clothing, including the apron, is constructed to prevent hot liquid and food, as well as steam, from landing on the chef's body and causing injury. The material is either very thick, such as with the jacket, or very baggy, such as with many varieties of pants.

Even the buttons on the chef's jacket are usually of a material other than plastic or metal. Since plastic could melt and metal could become very hot, very quickly -- both making it difficult to whip off the jacket if it caught fire, for example, or if scalding liquid soaked a sleeve.

And don't forget the shoes. Non-slip shoes, of course, are necessary in any kitchen to reduce the risk of slipping on wet floors.

Cook Comfort

Someone's cooking? That means that person is dealing with hot appliances and flames, possibly in summer when the air conditioning might be overwhelmed. The uniform might be made of thick material, but it isn't tight, so there is some air circulation.

The very tall chef's hat you see in some kitchens allows for heat, both external kitchen heat and body heat, to rise up and away from the chef's head. There are shorter versions of a chef's cap, but these too have some space above the skull. Those non-slip shoes had better have good support and boxy toes that ensure the chef's feet don't start to hurt after several hours on that kitchen floor.

Food Hygiene

The uniform also protects the customer and food; in other words, it contributes to good hygiene. The hat contains loose hairs and sweat, which no one wants dripping into the food; the same goes for the neckerchief, the scarf like piece of material you see so many cooks wear. The uniform material -- usually cotton -- is absorbent and helps catch and stop any errant sweat droplets.

Even the white color of most chefs' uniforms helps with comfort and hygiene. The white color reflects heat away from the chef's body, and it lends the kitchen a clean appearance. It's not unusual for that white to become spattered with food, of course, but it is easier to see spills and clean up bits of food that may have clung to the uniform. It's become more common to see restaurants use different colors for cooks' uniforms, but white remains the standard look.

Community Belonging

Of particular importance to the culinary student is the sense of community belonging that a uniform creates. While "community" and "belonging" may not spring to mind when the student is chopping several onions in a hot kitchen, that uniform signals to others that the student is part of the crew and that they belong in that kitchen with everyone else. And it has its effects on their perception, too; now they know that culinary school is leading to the real world, and they are joining the ranks of a celebrated profession.

Culinary Student Uniforms: Why are they Important in the Kitchen?

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