If you watch cooking shows or have even paid attention to the kitchen staff at your favorite restaurant, you probably know that professional chefs have a standard uniform that they adhere to, although you may not know what purpose each individual piece serves.
If you cook a lot at home, you should familiarize yourself with cooking attire, and even think about getting some of your own. Don’t worry; you don’t have to wear a boring black and white uniform in your own kitchen. There are plenty of cool options like jackets made of denim that will appeal to urban chef’s everywhere — even if they’re not cooking in a restaurant kitchen.
While some pieces of the uniform are optional, there are a few that you should think about having on hand, at least for those times where you know you’ll be spending hours in the kitchen cooking a big feast.
An apron serves many purposes in the kitchen, which is why it’s a standard part of every restaurant employee’s uniform, even if they are not necessarily cooking.
In addition to protecting your clothes from stains, an apron with pockets is a great way to have essentials on hand whenever you need them. Things like towels, a thermometer, or even a small pairing knife can go with you wherever you go. This is especially helpful in large kitchens.
Choosing an apron can be tricky; there are a variety of aprons in different styles and fabrics on the market today. Some are made of basic fabrics, which may work if you’re not spending hours in the kitchen, but these types of aprons usually don’t last as long. Good choices include those made from heavy-duty fabrics like denim; these may cost more at the get go, but they will hold up for years of daily use. Ideally, you should choose an apron that is full rather than half (it covers your chest), and the more pockets the better. It’s rare to hear a chef say he wishes he had less pockets, but more are always coveted.
If you’ve never worn an apron before, it can take some getting used to, but once you make a habit of it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Feet are often an afterthought when it comes to cooking, but professionals know the importance of high quality, comfortable footwear, and if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you should too.
Good quality shoes serve more than just one purpose. In addition to making sure you can stand for long periods of time without aches and pains, they can protect you from safety hazards like dropping heavy or sharp objects, or spilling hot liquids. Even if you’re only in the kitchen for a little while, you should always wear protective footwear on your feet.
Choosing good shoes doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. You can find high quality shoes in a range of styles and price ranges. You should avoid buying them online unless you’ve owned them before; instead head to a uniform store and try them on. Walk around in them for 20 minutes or so and see how they feel on your feet. If you aren’t keen on the idea of wearing shoes in the house, get a pair of easy to slip on clogs and store them near or in the kitchen so that you can always put them on when you’re ready to cook. Ask about the stores return policy; sometimes a shoe that seems comfortable at the beginning can end up hurting your back and legs after spending hours in them.
Fire Resistant Clothing
One of the most important qualities of a professional chef’s uniform is that the materials are made of clothing resistant to flame. The reason for this is obvious; if you’re busy in the kitchen, it can be very easy to accidentally let your sleeve get too close to the flame.
Wearing clothing that is fire resistant can help prevent this. Obviously if you’re heating up leftovers in the microwave, you probably don’t need to don a special outfit, but if you’re going to spend hours preparing a special meal with several burners, making sure your clothes can take the heat could be important. This is especially true if you have kitchen help; it can be easy for someone to bump into you.
You can buy fire resistant clothing and chef’s jackets at uniform stores or from a specialty retailer.
It may seem silly to wear long sleeves in a hot kitchen, but professionals know that to do otherwise increases your chances of getting burned, either by fire or hot liquids. A chef’s jacket is a great way to solve this problem; you can simply hang it on a hook in your kitchen and put it on whenever you’re ready to start cooking.
While long sleeves are important, it’s also important to make sure that your sleeves are not so loose fitting that they hang by the flame when you’re at the stove. If you go with a chef’s jacket, make sure to try it on first so that the sleeves aren’t too long. Not only is this distracting, but it’s also an easy way to catch your sleeve on fire.
There’s no health code that says you have to wear a hat or head cover, but it still makes perfect sense to do so.
Wearing a hat serves several purposes. First, it keeps hair out of your food. Even though you won’t be faced with angry diners if there’s a hair in their soup, do you really want to feed that to your spouse or children? Second, long hair can very easily get caught in equipment or catch fire, and it doesn’t have to be a big piece of hair; a single strand can cause havoc.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to covering your head, and with the amount of cool urban chef wear these days, you should be able to find something that doesn’t make you feel like you’re working in a stuffy restaurant. Remember, you’re only cooking in your home kitchen, so if it keeps the hair out of your eyes and is comfortable, it should work just fine.
While not technically part of a chef’s uniform, a kitchen towel is an important accessory to have on hand in the kitchen. It can mop up spills quickly, keep a cutting board stable on the counter, or remove that hot pan from the oven before you can get to your oven mitt.
Buy towels that are heavy duty and absorbent, and buy a few so that you always have a clean one on hand. Use it to mop up spills, but make sure you don’t use a wet towel to remove a hot pan from the oven.
If you have an apron, a towel is the first thing you should put in one of the pockets.
Whether or not you need one or all of these items in your kitchen is dependent on your skill level and the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. If you spend long hours over a hot flame and are on your feet the whole time, you may be surprised at how useful these items really are. A good idea is to set aside a small space in your pantry or near your kitchen where you keep these items. That way they’re there if you’ve got a cooking marathon coming up, but you can overlook them if you’re just making a quick morning breakfast before heading to work.