Hats in the Workplace: The Toque (Part I)

chef hat - toque

The Toque – the Hat of the Chef

When you picture certain people you automatically dress them in a certain outfit or a specific uniform. Often you associate a Hat or head covering with the person as well.

Here’s one – cook – what did you think of? Probably his/her tall white chefs hat was one of the first associations you had, was’nt it?

So, the big question is how did the chef hat, a tall white hat known as a toque evolve?

Well of course everything has a history, yes, that includes a chef hat.

Word has it that even before the 7th century chefs wore chef hats in order to make them look different than any other people working in the kitchen.

Whywas that?

Because in those days lots of chefs used to try to poison the king and kill him. The king thought that if he made their job a more prestigious position by giving them a hat that made them look different and sophisticated they might feel a little more highly of themselves and would never even consider doing such a lowly act.

Another reason which may have brought about the chef hat was that the man who cooked for King Henry VIII started having hair loss (,aybe alopecia?) and his hair used to fall into the food being prepared for the king. The king therefore had him killed and declared that the next person to work in the kitchen should wear a hat.

Later, in the 1800’s a chef from France by the name of Marie- Antoine decided that being a chef really was a prestigious job and the hat needed to be a little more fashionable and elite looking. Also, at this time they were becoming more aware of cleanliness and basic hygiene so it was decreed that all chefs should wear hats to prevent sweat and hair from going into the food being prepared. He chose the color white since white is a clean color and displayed cleanliness as is food in the kitchen (at least we hope). Now of course, there were different ranks and levels of people working in the kitchen. So they started making many hats with different heights; the higher it was, the more prestigious the job.

Did you know that:

1.       The chef hat has 100 folds in order to symbolize the 100 ways to cook an egg.

2.       Marie- Antoine’s hat was 18” high (because he was the best chef) and had to be held up with cart board.

To this day, employees in kitchens wear head covers, hair nets or toques while involved it food preparation for hygenic reasons. I guess we should all thank Marie- Antoine or Henry VIII next time we are in a restaurant for that clear bowl of soup!!

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