The history of the Chef Toque cannot be clearly defined but many folks believe it all started hundreds of years ago in the kitchens of Kings, while others believe it was to escape persecution. What we do know is that the Toque is the most recognizable of the hats worn by Chefs today and many historians believe the first of these hats was worn as far back as the 1600’s and even into the ancient times. You may find this interesting, but the Toques’ origins come in many different varieties. Here are some versions:
Grease, Grease, Everywhere – Chef Hats originated from what many believe to be starched parts of bed sheets wrapped around the heads, with the top made into a sort of depression to catch the grease that accumulated on the ceilings.
Wear it or lose your Head – Others have a different story, like the old tale that a cook in King Henry’s Castle was balding and that a stray hair fell into his soup. Of course, the cook was beheaded and all future cooks had to wear hats to prevent them from losing their heads!
Give Me a Hat, I want to be Free – Still, there is another story that cooks of the past were free thinkers and that because of this, they were routinely persecuted. So they decided to disguise themselves by dressing like religious priests. They made a decision to wear white hats to keep from looking like the priests, who wore black ones.
I am the King – Some date the Chef hat all the way back to Ancient Persia where selecting a Cook could be your death. Poisoning food was a great way to do away with the leaders of the time. Anyway, the story goes that these cooks were treated very well and had a special place at the King’s side. This prestige allowed the Chef to place a “crown” like hat on his head in the shape of the King’s crown, but it was made from cloth. The ribs of the hat were said to derive from the experience the Chef had in cooking eggs. Go figure.
I am not sure which story is really the truth or if there is a bit of truth in each, but there you have the basic history of the most recognizable of the Chef Uniform today, the Toque. Please send in your comments, I would love to post them.