The chef’s jacket is instantly recognizable — it’s one of the most important things a chef can own. Every chef remembers the first time he or she put on the whites, and while some chefs prefer to cook in an apron, you’ll most likely never find a chef in their kitchen not wearing one. But why do chefs wear them, and why are they white?
Every aspect of the chef’s jacket has been carefully thought out. The heavy cotton material helps insulate the chef from the intense heat of the kitchen while remaining breathable, and also absorbs spilled liquids. The long sleeves help to protect arms from burns and cuts. The knotted buttons don’t chip or fall off like plastic buttons do, and come undone quickly in case of an emergency, like a hot oil spill. The jackets are also double-breasted, so if it gets stained the cook can simply reverse the flaps.
But how about that color? First of all, white is reflective, repelling heat instead of absorbing it (don’t forget how hot those kitchens are). White clothing can also be easily bleached, so stains aren’t permanent.
White also connotes cleanliness. If a chef stains their uniform, it’s much easier to notice against a white background; this is especially important when the stain comes from raw chicken or some other contaminant.
Oh, and fun fact: Most chefs actually keep three coats on hand. One to wear, one to change into in case the other gets stained or burned, and one that’s kept pristine in case a VIP arrives and the chef needs to go into the dining room to greet them.
Now if you'd like to know why chefs wear those silly tall hats, click here.