Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Chef's Uniform - The Rest of It

More about kitchen safety in clothing. I may never dress the same again to cook dinner.

Chef toque
The same is true of pants. Shorts, while they may seem like a good idea for such a hot environment, are inappropriate because they offer no protection. Pants should be worn without cuffs, which can trap hot liquids and debris. Ideally, pants should have a snap fly and be worn without a belt; in case hot grease is spilled on the legs, this allows for extremely fast removal of the pants, which could lessen the severity of the burn.

Be it a tall white toque or a favorite baseball cap, chefs wear hats to contain their hair, preventing it from falling into the food. hats also help absorb sweat from overheated brows. Neckerchiefs serve a similar sweat absorbing role.

Famous chef, Marie-Antoine Carême also thought that the hats should be different sizes, to distinguish the cooks from the chefs. The chefs wore the tall hats and the younger cooks wore shorter hats, more like a cap. Carême himself supposedly wore a hat that was 18 inches tall! The folded pleats of a toque, which later became an established characteristic of the chef's hat, were first said to have been added to indicate the more than 100 ways in which a chef can cook an egg.

The apron is worn to protect the jacket and pants from excessive staining. Most chefs use side towels to protect their hands when working with hot pans, dishes, or other equipment. They are not meant to be used as wiping cloths. Side towels used to lift hot items must be dry in order to provide protection. Once they become even slightly wet, they can no longer insulate properly.

While athletic shoes are very comfortable, they are not ideal for working in a kitchen. If a knife should fall from a worksurface, most athletic shoes would offer very little protection. Hard leather shoes with slip-resistant soles are recommended, both because of the protection they offer and the support they can give your feet. A job that involves standing for several hours at a time puts a premium on good quality, supportive, protective footgear.

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