The traditional chef's uniform consists of four basic parts. They are:
- The Coat
- The Hat
- The Pants
- The Apron
As with many traditional things, the precise origins of each of these items is sometimes difficult to determine. On the other hand, some aspects of the tradition, such as the fact that the coat is white and virtually everything you have to work with while wearing the coat is A) non-white and B) staining, grate on individuals such as myself and we are compelled to find out exactly where such an irritating custom arose. In order to do this, we must examine the history of the modern chef.
While cooking has been around for almost as long as there have been people on the planet, the job of professional chef in the sense that we know it1 is of fairly recent origin in the grand scheme of things.
The history of the professional chef can be traced back to 18th century France, and more directly to a Monsieur Boulanger who, the claim is, opened the first modern restaurant in 17652. This and other restaurants that opened in succeeding decades catered only to the wealthy and are notable not because of this fact, but because they represented a transition from taverns and such where the serving of food was incidental to the primary function of providing room and/or drinks to the serving of food to those whose purpose in coming to the establishment was solely for the purpose of eating said food.
The aristocracy also employed chefs who made for them large and sumptuous meals while the majority of the country lay in poverty. This made a lot of people angry and, in 1789, they expressed their displeasure with this and other issues by means of the French Revolution. This was often conveyed by doing unpleasant things to various members of the aristocracy and their employees. Many chefs lost their jobs. Some lost their heads. Quite a lot of them fled the country3. Some stayed behind and opened their own restaurants or catering companies to cater to the newly-formed middle class. And thus was formed the basis for an entirely new industry.