The Dinette Teller – 07. The Chef’s Hat

The first knowledge about professional cooks of the history is dated in ancient Greece, and then in the Roman Empire, the Middle Age, and so on. In all these periods, the cook was not an important role, but more similar to a servant.

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During the XVIII Century, in France, the career of cook gained distinction and notoriety,  Chef was the title given for this.

The main symbol of the chef is his Cap, which was invented, in order to guarantee hygiene and to act as a shelter, for instance from smoke and fire, protecting the hair and avoiding them to fall in the plate of the customers.

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The first “Chef Hat” was actually a disguise, worn by the cooks, so as to resemble the priests’ appearance, since they were persecuted at that time. They chose the white as colour, to distinguish it from the saint headgear. From that moment, the white hat became their emblem, as a professional-class.

At the beginning of ‘500 the shape of the hat was similar to a beanie, as we can see in the illustration of the book “Epulario” of the 1518.

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Only in the XIX Century, the hat was called as in the current years, namely “Toque Blanche”. “Toque” was also the name of the university professors’ hat. For this reason, they maintained the white colour (“Blanche” in french), to differentiate the two jobs, since professors and magistrates used to wear a black hat.

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Over the years, the hat was highly appreciated and it substituted the cotton caps, usual in that period.

The Chef Careme inserted a carton disk inside, to get a bigger dimension and a higher rigidity to the hat.

Every country had different habits, however: englishmen and irish used to wear a similar typical irish hats,the Spanish preferred a stiff woollen white one, whereas Italian and French loved to wear big white caps, decorated with ribbons.

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Also the way to wear the Toque Blanque was considered meaningful. It was meant that Chefs, who wore the back-pulled hat was hot-tempered and irascible, whereas, who wore it proud on his forehead was a free thinker.

La Toque Blanche was also a good way to hidden a modest height, to look bigger in comparison of his subordinates, even reaching the height of 40 centimeters and more!

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The real “toque” has 100 folds, representing the 100 different ways, to cook an egg.

Today absorbent disposable materials take the place of the cotton and the maximum height of the hat is around 30-35 centimeters (25 for bakers).

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