Well Dressed – Chef Apparel Buying Guide
Back of house staff - chefs, cooks and dishwashers - need the right tools and equipment and that includes the right apparel. Clothing, beyond providing a streamlined look for your team, is designed for comfort and safety in busy kitchens.
From casual to formal, kitchen staff should feel confident and comfortable in a uniform that represents the business. Even if your operation doesn’t have an official uniform, having a staff style guide of what attire is appropriate (or not appropriate) is important for consistency in how your staff look. Especially important if your kitchen staff are visible to your customers.
If you aren’t providing uniforms, offering a stipend – even a small one – to go toward clothing is greatly appreciated and makes it easier for staff to follow your preferred style.
Our chef wear buying guide will help outfit your staff in stylish and functional comfort.
Aprons will be used by back of house staff and front of house staff depending on the type of establishment you have. But, one type of apron may not work for all areas and will depend on tasks.
This apron is a favourite for waitstaff in many establishments because it provides the most comfort for walking due to its short length. Typically this type of apron is only used by servers and is not practical for use in the kitchen.
An extra long waist apron provides extra protection for pants – important for waitstaff that also clears and wipes down table which can sometimes be a messy job. The bistro apron is increasingly popular with kitchen staff and is available in a range of lengths. However, this type of apron does not provide any upper body coverage.
Four Way Aprons
In between a waist apron and bistro apron, a four-way apron is a perfect option for kitchen staff (and waitstaff) to maintain a clean look. With a four panel design, the aprons can be arranged in different ways for a constant clean appearance. However, this type of apron also does not provide any upper body coverage.
If you would like your staff to also have upper body coverage – maybe you prefer lighter coloured shirts and coats – bib aprons might be the best choice. A neck loop, sometimes adjustable depending on the manufacturer, and waist tie keep the apron in place during a busy service and may also have a pocket or two for having a thermometer or timer close at hand.
Made of water-resistant materials, this type of apron is helpful for staff working the dish pit. The bib-style protects the upper body and the length extends at least to the knees or lower to protect both clothing and skin from the mess and chemicals of washing dishes for a busy kitchen. Some types of dishwashing aprons also offer heat and cut resistance for another layer of safety.
A chef coat, also called a chef jacket is more than just a symbol of what the person wearing it does for a living. It was purposely designed to keep chefs safe in a working space that has many potential hazards. Chef coat designs have improved over the years and with so many options how do you know which one works for you?
Single or Double Breasted
Double breasted coats provide an extra layer of protection and the ability to quickly switch out to a clean panel. Cleanliness is especially important if your chefs are customer facing. Traditional chef coats are typically double breasted.
Single breasted coats still provide full coverage but not the double protection, however, adding a bib apron can increase protection. The reduced amount of fabric in single breasted version tend to feel a bit cooler.
Like single or double breasted, sleeve length preference comes down to a compromise between comfort and protection. Long sleeves provide more protection from burns and splashes, but short sleeves are cooler. And yes, you can roll up long sleeves, but it doesn’t decrease the total amount of fabric and therefore might not keep you cooler.
The fabric choice for your chef coat is about the look but also about the feel, breathability and how easy it is to care for. Sensitive skin rubbing against an itchy fabric throughout a busy ten hour shift can cause serious irritation and trust us, you want your chefs to be happy.
Style and Cut
Classic and slim fit are the two major types of chef jackets. And there are also unisex coats available. But keep in mind that you want to instill confidence in your staff and providing an ill-fitting uniform isn’t going to cut it.
Each manufacturer has a slightly different fit. Refer to their sizing guides to determine which size is best for each of your staff, one size does not fit all.
Buttons, or closures, are a functional necessity of chef coats but how they look can completely change the style. Standard plastic buttons are fine but also consider fabric knots, fabric coated dome-shaped buttons or even snap buttons.
Collars can vary in height between manufacturers and can be low to high. High collars are more traditional and are great if your staff also wear bib aprons as the collar will protect the back of the neck from being irritated. Keep in mind that collars were designed to protect chefs. Low collars, also collarless, give a more casual style but obviously provide less protection.
Pockets are another consideration and depend on what gear your kitchen staff prefer to have on their person at all times. Slim pockets, typically on the upper sleeve, are perfect for having thermometers, tasting spoons and pens close at hand. Wider pockets that ride on the front of the hips might be necessary if your staff carry devices with them all shift.
Chef (or cook) pants must be durable, comfortable and breathable. Kitchen staff are constantly on the move and you don’t want to choose pants that slow them down, feel extra hot or don’t fit properly.
There are two types of pants typically used by kitchen staff – baggy and fitted. Baggy pants have an elasticized waist and very relaxed fit in the legs. Fitted pants are a more tailored look and are sized by waist.
Look for comfortable, breathable, easy to care for fabrics. Many chefs and cooks prefer darker coloured pants or check patterns to hide stains.
Footwear is by far the most important part of kitchen staff uniform. Working a long shift in a pair of uncomfortable shoes is a recipe for sore feet (and a mean disposition) and increased chance of injury. Non-slip, comfortable shoes with support are key to happy staff.
Outfit your back of house staff with comfortable, functional and stylish apparel for a streamlined look.