Chef Jackets, Waiter Uniforms And More: What Should Restaurant Staff Wear?
The chef's uniform. An iconic piece of clothing that is synonymous with the food industry. The traditional uniform is the classic imagery a person evokes when thinking of a chef, such as the large hat and double-breasted jacket, but in the 21st century restaurants no longer choose to go for these traditional outfits as much, adapting their own unique styles and choices for what they wear. Here at London Linen, we’re passionate about high-quality chef wear, so we have put together this guide to what restaurant staff wear.
History Of The Traditional Chef’s Uniform
The traditional chef’s uniform, also known as chef’s whites, dates back as far as the 16th century. The traditional uniform consists of a white hat also known as a toque blanche, a white double-breasted jacket, pants in a black-and-white houndstooth pattern and an apron.
The tradition of wearing this style of clothing dates back to the mid-19th century when the chef uniform was developed by Marie-Antoine Carême. The toque blanche was already in use, but he wanted to develop a uniform to honour the role of the chef, choosing the coat to signify cleanliness and adding cardboard to the toque blanche.
The toque blanche is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all. It first was popular in Europe from the 13th to the 16th century as a style of hat but is now mostly just known for being the traditional headgear for chefs. It was a gradual evolution of head coverings worn by chefs throughout the years.
The toque blanche is white for sanitary reasons and different heights/folds can indicate rank in the kitchen and areas of a chef’s expertise, with each pleat representing a technique that they have mastered.
In most traditional restaurants, especially french restaurants, the white chef’s coat is a standard piece of uniform. It is traditional and also practical, as the thick cotton of the double-breasted jacket can protect from the high heat and any potential splattering of boiling liquids. The buttons on a chef's jacket also have a meaning, qualified chefs usually wear black buttons and students wear white buttons. White is intended to signify cleanliness but in the modern age, other colours have become popular such as black.
The chef’s apron is also used for safety purposes, helping to protect from hot liquid spills. It can then be easily removed so the hot liquid does not get on the trousers and then the skin. Aprons can be around the waist or lengthy and cover the whole front side of the body. They protect from food and stains and can be used to wipe hands, even though this is seen as an unsanitary practice now.
What Should Chefs Wear?
As described above, the traditional chef uniform of a toque blanche, double-breasted jacket and trousers has continued into this day, still seen in many traditional or upmarket restaurants. It is both an iconic and classy look, giving connotations of professionalism and high quality to a kitchen. Traditional chef clothing is also extremely practical, as it is designed to keep chefs safe during cooking.
While the traditional uniform still reigns supreme, a lot of restaurants nowadays utilise a more casual approach to their chef uniforms. Many opt for no hats anymore, but some restaurants will still wear more casual hats or hair nets. These can keep hair away from the food but are not as fancy as wearing a toque blanche.
The chef jacket has adapted and changed over the years, from the classic, white double-breasted long-sleeve to more casual variations. This includes short sleeve versions that are more breathable, but also have the danger of leaving the arms uncovered in the case of hot splashes. Many chef jackets now come in a range of colours, so you can outfit your staff in a colour that suits you. For example, a bright, modern restaurant might prefer primary colour uniforms, while a classic bistro might stick with earthy tones to evoke a classic feel.
You shouldn’t wear casual clothes while cooking such as jeans and t-shirts, as they are not designed for the kitchen. They will offer little to no protection from hot liquids, quickly passing through the material and scalding you instead of harmlessly hitting traditional chef wear. If your restaurant or kitchen is quite casual and does wear t-shirts, you should ensure these are restaurant quality and suitable for the kitchen.
You should also not wear baggy clothing in the kitchen. This could easily get snagged or caught on counters, corners, ovens or any other hazard. This could cause you to drop food, hurt yourself or bring about a situation where somebody else gets injured. But in the opposite direction, you should also not wear skin-tight clothing. This is because there is less of a barrier between a potential hazard and your skin. If boiling oil or any other liquid splashes on skin-tight clothing, it will most definitely instantly go through and harm your skin.
What Should Waiters Wear?
Waiter uniforms are up for a bit more interpretation than chef wear. This is because they do not primarily deal with the dangers of the kitchen and are also in a customer-facing role. One thing most businesses agree on though is that a waiter’s uniform should be the same across all their staff. This gives a sense of uniformity and professionalism, as well as helps diners easily identify staff. A simple waiter uniform can consist of many different elements, so we’ll cover a few of the most common.
On the top half, waiters typically wear button-up short or long-sleeve shirts. White is traditional, however many businesses opt for different colours. Other common choices are polo shirts and t-shirts. These are popular choices as they can be easily customised with the restaurant's logo or branding, such as an embroidered logo on a polo or a printed brand identity on a t-shirt.
In terms of trousers, front-of-house staff usually depend on the type of restaurant. Fancier restaurants may insist their staff wear trousers or skirts, while a more casual restaurant will probably let their staff wear jeans or other casual trousers.
Many waiters and waitresses also wear aprons as part of their uniforms. This could be smaller, more casual waist aprons or full bib aprons. Many waiter aprons have pockets so they can carry notepads, pencils and other items that will allow them to easily take orders.
Why Hire Uniforms?
A lot of restaurants nowadays utilise linen hire to get their uniforms. These types of services deliver uniforms straight to their door and then collect used uniforms and wash them. The main reason for doing this is to save time and money. Some restaurants don’t have to have their own washing facilities, and their uniforms will not degrade over time as they’ll always receive quality products from a linen hire service.
It’s also much more sanitary to deliver uniforms, instead of relying on staff to take them home and wash them themselves. Also if a staff member is travelling to work in uniform, they could pick up a great number of germs, but having a uniform at work to put on when they arrive is much more sanitary and safe.
Kitchen Linen From LONDON LINEN
So if you’re after commercial kitchen linen from a leading supplier, get in touch with London Linen today. We have years of experience providing linen hire and industrial laundry services for kitchens, restaurants, hotels and caterers. We do this by offering an amazing product range of kitchen uniforms, that are high-quality and specifically designed for the kitchen environment.
This includes chef jackets in both white and black and in short or long-sleeve designs, so your chefs can wear an option that will protect them and suit your business. We also have a selection of aprons, including butcher aprons, bib aprons, waist aprons and gourmet aprons in a range of colours. We also provide drawstring trousers, which will protect from spills and are easy to remove in case of emergency. For your front-of-house staff, we offer polo shirts, which can provide a sense of uniformity for your staff and a professional image.
We round off our kitchen linen with tea towels, glass cloths, oven cloths, microfibre cloths and kitchen cloths. We can also provide restaurant linen if you need it, including table linen and serviettes in a variety of colours, so you can choose table linen that suits the theme and vibe of your restaurant.
Give us a call at 0208 5745569 to talk through your requirements and see how London Linen can help you today.