Chef hats have a history that can be traced as far as the beginning of the centuries. Although the real origin is not really known, it does go back a long way. It is a popular belief that the chefs in the courts of Iran and the nearby nations wore the chef hats even in the B.C. times, although for reasons that might be different from now. However, the shape and sizes must have considerably undergone some drastic changes since then. Even with all the noticeable changes, the chef hat is still being worn by all the chefs and cooks worldwide to avoid stray hair from falling into the dish being prepared allowing contamination of the dish.
Tradition indicates that the number of pleats on the headdress indicates the experience of the chef. Of course, this means the head chef, who is the one with the maximum experience gets to wear a hat with a hundred pleats. Although a hundred pleats are not found on a head chef’s hat these days, these hats do contain the most number of pleats still. The number of pleats also indicates the number of ways the chef can prepare a dish as so any head chef worthy of the title must be allowed to wear a head chef hat in honor of the knowledge possessed.
A chef’s hat worn these days is mostly a covering for the head than to depict any other symbolism. They also come in different sizes, heights and shapes depending on who would be wearing them. All the cooks, chefs, and others involved in the kitchen work are supposed to wear them without fail – taking hygiene into account more than anything else.
History indicates toque to have been worn by both men and women as a head covering while cooking. French, Italian, Spanish, German and other countries adopted a unique style by the early 16th century. Although the basic usage remained the same, to cover the head to avoid any stray hairs from falling into the dish being prepared, unique styles had come into vogue and were very distinguishable from one another. They were also named different in different languages, although they are all popular currently as the chef’s hats.
Starched cloth and wool chef hats came into picture in the early 17th century in many countries. These are still popular as along with keeping the hair in place, they also absorb the heat and sweat caused due to the heat in the kitchens. Early 19th century saw a revolution in the chef’s hats. Chefs dealing with various food preparations ended up putting on different caps to be distinguished in their areas of specializations.
Even with all the advancements in the history of chef hats, they still distinguish the chefs and the cooks even when they are currently made from paper and fiber instead of cloth. Cooks and chefs all over the world wear these hats regardless of the history and the tradition, which resulted in evolution of the chef hats.