Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interpreting The Chef's Uniform (Repost)

I've been having some conversions recently with people about chef's uniforms and my feelings on what I feel one should wear to be a professional. Instead of rehashing my argument with a new blog, I thought I would repost one of my older blogs which stated my feelings. Some of the statements will seem out of context as the blog post was written in 2007 when I lived in Boston.

So a comment came up during my blog from yesterday about chef uniforms. This comment came from statements about those horrific denim coats they wear on Iron Chef America. I ironically had a conversation with someone else today about chef uniforms and I guess I should give all of you my take on chef uniforms and how I came to the current uniform I adhere to and promote in the industry.

When I went to culinary school, we had a pre-meeting for each culinary laboratory class. During this meeting our uniforms were checked to make sure we adhered to what was 10 years ago, the basis for what has become the American Culinary Federation standard for culinary uniforms. We were to wear checkered chef pants, black shoes, a white t-shirt with no print, a CLEAN, unstained chef coat, the silly floppy chef toque, and a name tag. It was also at this time that the funky uniforms started to emerge from companies like Chefwear.

I will admit that I went for the funky wear for some time. Yes, yes I owned chili pepper pants, I even had a skull cap that matched and a chef coat with some fringe to go with it. I am soooooo glad that there are no pictures that exist from then. I wore clogs for a few years as well, never those odd Croc things that Batali wears, but to each their own. I tried wearing a bandanna for a few weeks at one time as well, as I shave my head and it was just horribly uncomfortable to me.

I worked for a small restaurant in Stowe, VT for a short period which might also bring out my disdain for the denim chef coat. The place was called Blue Jean's Cuisine and I actually showed up to the interview wearing a denim chef coat and denim chef pants. I got the job, but holy crap was I embarrassed afterwards.

After years of playing around and trying to have fun, I came to a point in my career a few years back that drove me to a point where I want perfection in everything I do. I have refined my cooking skills, my culinary knowledge and my professionalism in the kitchen. Part of that concentration for me was a change in my uniform.

Other chefs can go with the funky gear, but I have realized from my past that that was sort of a "mess" in my head that ended up being portrayed in my uniform, and honestly it showed in my cooking back then as well. Maybe others are a bit different and take their uniform as a way to express themselves, but honestly they aren't expressing themselves, they are just wearing a pattern that a company is trying to sell them. They are the Hot Topic of chefs maybe? Please take no offense if any of you wear these uniforms, but it is just the passion I have for my career.

We would never see a traditional French chef wearing this odd commercialized style of uniform. It is about the cooking and making sure we look appropriate in the public eye. Our presence has to say we are chefs, with passion, integrity and we need to be put together well so that our guests have faith in us. What we do outside of the kitchen is up to us when we are in the kitchen we are there to please the guest not just ourselves.

So what is the uniform I wear today? The pants I wear are pressed black pants, nothing expensive JOS Bank casual pants as they are a bit heavy weight for the safety and they are easy to clean and wear well. Chefwear has just come out with a new perm press tailored pant that I am thinking of trying though. I wear solid black socks along with a black shoe that can be shined from Sketchers (UPDATE: I now wear Doc Marten clogs, the Sketchers fell apart to easily) I wear a plain white t-shirt and my chef coat is a plain white, usually well starched coat that I have started ordering from New Chef as they don't charge for the ACF logo on my coats and it is pretty cheap to add embroidery of my name. My hat is a machine washable high toque with a Velcro back.

To take this back to yesterday's blog, it just reminds me of two of my favorite competitors from The Next Iron Chef. Gavin and Besh both had a high-level of professionalism. As much as an Iron chef should be making innovative and competitive food, we should be professionals and they certainly were dressed as professionals. Besh's sport coat outfit in France gave me confidence as well. We always need to be on spot in public and I feel he is certainly a New Orleans gentleman.

1 comment:

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