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Types Of Chef Hats

Types of Chef Hats – 16 Different Styles of Chef & Bakers Hats

Over time, the chef’s uniform has evolved immensely. One of the clearest indications of the same is the chef’s hat. There are so many styles of hats worn by chefs that many hat connoisseurs have become curious about which hat means what. There are so many parameters that add symbolism to a chef’s hat that it could be an entire field of study on its own. However, for the sake of this post, a surface-level understanding of these hats suffices.

What is a Chef and Bakers Hat?

Chef and Baker’s hats are simply the hats worn by chefs or bakers in various establishments. The more relevant question is which hat is worn by which kind of chef. There are many styles, each having some symbolic meaning attached to it. Therefore, it is crucial to develop an understanding of these hats. These could help a new establishment pick the right uniform for its staff or help a chef pick the right hat for himself.

16 Types of Chef and Bakers Hats

1. Toque Chef Hat

Toque Chef Hat is a historic hat dating back to the 16th century. It is typically white in color, therefore known as Toque Blanche. It has a pleated long and floppy crown with a fluffy top.

Functionally, it was used to prevent hair from falling into the food while cooking; however, it also became the symbol of seniority. The longer the crown, the higher the seniority. Further, each plate represented a special technique the chef possessed.

It has been a deep-rooted part of the French Culinary Tradition and so, in most traditional French restaurants, it is still the most sought after hat. It represents how serious and involved the chef is about his cooking.

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Unisex – One size fits most adults, teens, adolescents.

Cooking at a traditional restaurant, pubs, bars, Catering gigs, Hotel uniforms, Cafes, Bakeries.

It is mostly made of cotton and works for all seasons.

2. Tall Chef Hat

Tall Chef Hat is the successor to Toque Blanche. As fashion evolved, chefs started preferring the straight shape of the Toque instead of the floppy one. One reason could be that the floppy design was considered more feminine, while another reason could be that it would not sit on the head so well as a straight hat.

It still has pleats, and the length still symbolizes knowledge and seniority; however, now it is available in several different colors matching the uniform. Another evolution that has taken place is that now most chefs prefer paper hats to cloth ones because that latter absorb more heat. At times, the hat is bare-headed or lacking a surface at the top of the crown.

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Unisex – Some have adjustable closures

Cooking at 5-star establishments, Catering gigs, Hotel uniforms

If made of cloth, it is best for winters, but if made of paper, it is more suitable for hotter weather or kitchen environment

3. Chef Skull Cap

Chef skull cap is a tight-fitting shallow crown rounded hat with or without the adjustable ribbon tie at the back. It is a fashionable chef hat and has recently become very popular. It adds a little glamour to the chef’s uniform and gives it a casual and laid-back appearance.

These hats are more popular in Oriental culinary establishments of Korea, Japan, and China. Therefore, to bring more authenticity to their restaurants, many restaurants in the west have also incorporated this hat in their uniform. One of the most popular colors in this type of hat is black.

At times, it is worn by waiters and chefs alike and, therefore, is a symbol of a more lateral hierarchy in the establishment.

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Unisex – Some have an adjustable ribbon for a better fit

Cooking at Oriental establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Grill & Barbeque, Fun atmosphere establishment

All seasons

4. Chef Beanie

Chef Beanies and Skull Caps are often considered the same; however, they have a subtle fit difference. A skull cap fits much more tightly than a beanie, while the beanie has a snug but slightly loose fit.

Apart from this, there is a difference in the closure too. While skull caps have a ribbon tie closure, beanies have a Velcro fastener preferably or hook and loop as a closure. Further, compared to a skull cap, a beanie is a more recent culinary fashion development.

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Unisex – Some have an adjustable Velcro fastener

Cooking at casual establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Grill & Barbeque,

All seasons and if they have a mesh top, they are appropriate for hot weather

5. Chef Baseball Caps

A baseball cap is a very new addition to the chef’s uniform. It is a rebellious attempt against the traditional Toque, making the chef look much more fashionable. These also add to the whole vibe of the establishment and attracts a young crowd. More popular in fast-food establishments, baseball caps give a sporty look.

It again breaks the hierarchy and power distance between the chef and the rest of the staff. It is a symbol of welcoming suggestions and criticism from any person regardless of their seniority. It projects a healthier and more inclusive work environment.

Remember Luke from ‘Gilmore Girls’ with his blue baseball cap, well that’s the environment it is most suitable for.

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Unisex – Some have an adjustable snap closure

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Food Trucks

All seasons because they can be made of any material and have linings suitable for both hot and cold environments

6. Mesh Top Chef Skull Cap

Just like the skull cap, meshed top skull cap is also a deviation from the traditional Toque. It represents the great pride a chef takes in his profession. It further adds to the fact that a little deviation from standard recipes can lead to great innovations.

Following the recipe to the T is not necessary, and it conveys a relaxed environment for sous chefs and junior chefs. This motivates them to express their individuality. The school of thought that drives such deviations is that only taste and customer satisfaction matters at the end of the day.

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Unisex – Some have adjustable hook and loop closure

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Barbeque & Grills, Street food stalls

Most appropriate for hot weather because the mesh top makes it breathable

7. Restaurant Bouffant Cap

It is a mix of a Toque and a Slouchy beanie. Somewhat of a compromise between the traditional and rebellious schools of thought. You can think of these as a moderate school of thought chef hat.

It can have pleats lie a Toque, short brim like a baseball cap, and hanging back like a slouchy beanie. It is very fashionable and trendy and has enough room for tying your hair in a bun and covering it.

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Unisex – They have an adjustable elastic closure

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Barbeque & Grills, Street food stalls

It could be worn in any environment if made of a more appropriate material, but if the conditions are very hot, then these are less breathable

8. Bouffant Skull Cap

It is a mix between a normal skull cap and a Restaurant Bouffant cap. One of the most common differences between the Restaurant version and the Bouffant skull cap is that the former has a visor or a brim like a baseball cap. The latter is brimless.

Further, the Bouffant cap is made of mesh material, making it breathable for hot weather. This makes it more of a wear-it-at-work-only kind of a cap. At the very basic level, these resemble a shower cap.

Similar to the restaurant version, it can easily cover a hair bun.

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Unisex – They have an adjustable elastic closure

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops, Barbeque & Grills, Street food stalls

Best suitable for hot kitchen environment because of its breathability

9. Chefs Turban

Chef’s Turban is more popular in South-East Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In these countries, many chefs are of Sikh origin and very good at Mughlai and Punjabi cuisines.

Because of religious mandates, chefs have long hair tied in a bun. These are either covered in traditional turbans or the specific cloth chef turbans, quick and easy to tie behind the back.

With time, the chef’s cloth turban has become a symbol of modernity in thought and food. Further, it is light weight and breathable as compared to traditional multi-layered Turban.

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Men

Cooking at South-East Asian establishments, Barbeque & Grills, Street food stalls, and Casual food shops

Wearable in all seasons but more appropriate for less hot kitchen environments

10. Bakers Skull Cap

It is a typically raised skull cap that sits neatly on the top of the head. It is round with a flat crown and fits well but not very tightly on the head. It can come off if the head is tilted. Further, it shows some hair around the ear. Therefore, it doesn’t give full coverage.

It can have a mess top to make it more breathable because baking ovens can generate a lot of heat.

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Unisex

Baking at Bakeries, Pastry Shops, Muffin & Waffle Stalls

Wearable in all seasons, it has a mesh top then it is even more breathable

11. Chef Bandana

It is more of a broad hairband that keeps the hair in its place and prevents them from falling into the food. It is perfect for chefs with long hair and therefore mostly preferred by women. However, it makes the wearer look very relaxed and sophisticated; therefore, even men wear it very frequently.

It brings a hip-hop vibe into the food establishment and welcomes the hippy crowd. It portrays a very young image of the outlet and segments the market it wants to cater to.

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Unisex

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Food truck, Street food stalls

Most appropriate for hot kitchen environment as it absorbs sweat well

12. Flat Cap

This cap looks like any other flat cap or a golfer’s cap. These are very comfortable and breathable for hot kitchen environments. It has a pointed front and a raised but a flat back, which gives it a forward slanted look of a slide.

It is very popular in newer and more liberal establishments that believe in a lateral hierarchy with less power distance. In many such establishments, the entire kitchen staff wears the same hat, including the head chef and the bus buoys.

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Unisex

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Food truck, Street food stalls, Hot dog wagons

Appropriate for all seasons

13. Duckbill Cap

It is a brimless close cousin of a flat cap but reversed. The front is broader than the back, and at times it has a baggy fit. It is very popular in oriental establishments and is also preferred in less traditional ones.  These are at times worn by sous chefs in traditional establishments also.

The two most common patterns are plain and striped ones, and they make the chef’s uniform a lot more fashionable.

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Unisex

Cooking at less traditional and Oriental establishments, Cafes, Coffee Shops

Can be worn in all seasons

14. Chef Beret

Think of a Toque without a neck, and you have got yourself a Chef Beret. It fits well to the head like a Toque and has pleats and a floppy crown. It makes the artist look like an artist of food. It brings out the creativity and the innovation of the chef in his food.

It is very popular in French restaurants and mostly in French Pastry Shops. Therefore, it presents a sweet and welcoming image of the chef.

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Unisex

Cooking at French restaurants and Pastry shops, Cafes, niche & authentic meal shops

Can be worn in all seasons

15. Chef Captain’s Hat

This is very similar to a cabbie cap but is also like a sailor’s cap with a short visor and a snug fit. It is perfect for the head chef at a cruise ship. It brings the same level of seniority to the head chef as the captain’s hat brings to the ship captain.

It conveys a wise image of a person who really knows his food. Further, it also brings forth the knowledge of which foods go well on the seas. This could be a great relief to those who fear getting sea-sick.

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Unisex

Cooking on a Cruise ship, Sea-food establishments, Cruise-themed restaurants

Can be worn in all seasons

16. Hair Nets

The most popular head wear in fast-food establishments these days are hairnets. Their only purpose is to prevent hair from falling into the food.

They are not fashionable but are very inexpensive and therefore preferred by multi-outlet food chains that need to be cost-conscious.

These are also popular among newer establishments that need to cut corners wherever possible to make their businesses profitable and sustainable.

These resemble shower caps but can be made of meshed material.

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Unisex

Cooking at casual and fast-food establishments, Cafes, Food truck, Street food stalls

Preferable in a hot kitchen environment when made of the mesh but not suitable for very cold weather.

What Does a Chef Toque Represent?

Toque hat is a symbol of seniority at the outset. The longer the hat is, the higher the seniority. It is the oldest chef hat and is still preferred in traditional establishments as it brings a certain degree of culinary wisdom and experience with it.

As it is a pleated hat, originally, the pleats represented the number of skills a chef had. A hat with 100 pleats was a mark of great and rare achievement because possessing 100 culinary skills was not an easily accomplishable task.

It also brings tradition into the establishment, which conveys that the chef follows the recipe to the T. This is a desired trait for Gourmets and Food Connoisseurs. It represents a food wizard who can concoct difficult recipes in no time and takes great pride in his profession.

What Do Chef Hat Colors Mean?

Most commonly, chef hats are white in color. The original name for Toque was ‘Toque Blanche,’ which means a white Toque. It is not just a tradition for a chef hat to be white. White is the symbol of cleanliness. Therefore, if the chef’s hat is spotless, it means that the kitchen is spotless too.

However, nowadays, other colors and patterns are also popular. Black and Red are two very common colors, second only to white. At times, they add glamour to the uniform or bring out a particular country’s colors to give more authentic vibes to the establishments. For example, if a Chinese restaurant has a red uniform, a contrasting black hat looks a lot more fashionable.

Further, some establishments also follow color coding for seniority purposes.

How Much Does a Chef Hat Cost?

A Chef hat can cost anywhere between $4 to $50 depending upon the style, fabric, and design. Some hats are custom made or a part of the uniform, therefore cost more.

Something as basic as a hair net would cost very little, but a fancy Toque could be a pricier affair.

Further, if it is a paper hat, it is cheaper than a cloth hat.

types of chef hats

Final Thoughts

Chef’s hats are a symbol of pride, culinary wisdom, seniority, chef’s thought process, and the establishment’s authenticity.

There are many types of Chef hats. Some are traditional; some are rebellious. Each represents a certain school of thought in the culinary community and is preferred in a certain kind of establishment. Many of these preferences are an outcome of tradition and looks, but at times also of functionality.

The most important factor that can make the decision-maker lean on to one style above all others is breathability. The style can follow. If you want a Toque, to make it more breathable, you could use a bear-headed one or that made of paper.

These days, with more advancement towards gender-neutrality, most new chef hats are unisex. Many women chefs are breaking the barriers by opting for a chef’s hat traditionally suited for men.

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