Do you know why chefs wear a white hat called a “toque blanche”?

Bela kapa kuharskih chefov
Photo: envato

When you think of a chef, you probably think of a great dish, but also of the chef's white hat - the "torque blanche". Let's see what the white hat of chefs means.

"Toque Blanche" or the chef's white hat has long been a symbol of culinary expertise and hierarchy. Its height, a visual sign of authority, comes from a tradition pioneered by the legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier. This is far from the only interesting thing about this iconic headgear.

The white hat of chefs

The story of the white cap of chefs begins not with vanity, but with practicality. The purpose of the white headgear worn by the chefs is basically hygiene. In the chaotic dance of the kitchen, where cleanliness is paramount, the white cap served as a canvas that easily showed all traces of dirt. Legend has it that the infamous Henry VIII discovered a hair on his plate, causing him to have his chef beheaded.

The white hat of chefs
Photo: Unsplash/Arseny Togulev

The earliest versions of the chef's headgear were flat and functional and served a practical purpose - preventing hair from getting into the food. Over time, the design evolved and the height of the hat increased.

This transformation was not only fashionable; it was a response to the intense heat in the kitchen. The tall attachments allowed for better air circulation, preventing chefs from succumbing to high temperatures while creating an unmistakable silhouette that has become synonymous with culinary prowess.

The white hat of chefs
Photo: Unsplash/Jeff Siepman

What is the message of the chefs white hat?

The height of the chef's cap is not arbitrary; indicates position and expertise in the kitchen hierarchy. Auguste Escoffier, the influential French chef of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, introduced a system where the higher the toque, the higher the rank. Escoffier's tall hat is said to have reached 45 centimeters and as such was supported by pieces of cardboard.

It used to be thought that the number of folds on a hat represented the number of techniques or recipes a chef had mastered. For example, 100 folds can mean knowing 100 different ways to prepare eggs. Today, the folds are a reflection of respect for tradition and remind of an era when culinary knowledge was measured against the crowd culinary skills.

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