Why Do Chefs Wear Aprons? (4 Reasons)

You may have seen Gordon Ramsay wearing an apron over his chef whites and wondered if he needs it.

Chefs wear aprons to protect themselves from hot liquids, flames, and stains. Sometimes, chefs wear aprons with large pockets to store the essential tools they require to cook meals or appetisers.

Why Do Cooks Wear an Apron?

The main reason cooks and chefs wear an apron is safety—in case of flames or high heat when cooking and baking. An apron in a restaurant kitchen is usually long enough to go just past the knees, which protects the upper legs and thighs.

Further, an apron prevents stains and even smells from getting on the clothes or uniforms of the cooks and chefs. Aprons ensure there is greater cleanliness and sanitation when cooking. Chefs or cooks need to remove the aprons before entering the restroom. 

As such, the apron remains clean of any contaminants outside of the kitchen. Chefs can also change out of a dirty apron and replace it with a clean one during the day. This keeps their clothes clean and even ensures every meal is sanitary.

Is It Mandatory for Chefs to Wear an Apron?

While most municipal health codes do not require aprons specifically, they do mandate that chefs and cooks wear protective and clean garments in kitchens and other food preparation spaces when cooking and handling food.

Technically, garments, such as smocks or lab coats, can be effective and adhere to municipal health codes. However, aprons are a very cost-effective and straightforward way to meet the requirements of local health codes.

This is especially true when working in a restaurant that does not have lockers or laundry services. 

The food will be better protected from contamination when a chef wears an apron, as they wear their uniform when driving to work, in the restroom, or if they go out to lunch.

Types of Kitchen Aprons

There are multiple kitchen aprons that either a professional chef or those cooking at home can use. Eleven types of kitchen aprons include:

  • The bib apron
  • The waist apron
  • The bistro apron
  • The four-way apron
  • The waterproof apron
  • The disposable apron
  • The cobbler apron
  • The woodworking, tear-resistant apron
  • The pinafore or cross-back apron
  • The denim apron
  • The designer apron

While the bib apron protects the front upper portion of the body down to the thighs above the knees, the waist apron only covers the waist and lap area. 

The bistro apron is usually worn by waiters at upscale restaurants and protects the waist and legs. It also includes large pockets for carrying whatever one needs. Dishwasher operators tend to need waterproof aprons, and caterers often purchase disposable aprons.

Hobbyists wear woodworking or denim aprons outside of the kitchen, such as when crafting, woodworking, gardening, or sewing. Lastly, designer aprons are similar to bib aprons but look more attractive when homemakers wear them. 

chefs cooking and wearing aprons

What Colour Apron Do Chefs Normally Wear?

Gone are the days when chefs mostly wore a white-coloured apron. Today, there are two different colours of aprons that chefs typically wear in the restaurant kitchen. 

Traditionally, chefs wear a blue-and-white vertically striped apron. In addition to the blue-and-white pattern, many chefs now wear black aprons. 

The black apron is becoming a more common colour in restaurant kitchens today. A beginner cook would fit right in if their apron either comes in black or a blue-and-white pattern. When newly hired, you may want to ask the kitchen staff what colour of apron they prefer. 

If you don’t have time to find out what kind of apron colour is advised, it’s a good idea to wear a black one.

Why Do Some Chefs Wear Striped Aprons?

Chefs or cooks, who are just starting out and aren’t head chefs or anywhere near the top, tend to handle the messier parts of the job, such as chopping fruits, meats, and vegetables and cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day.

Dark-coloured and striped aprons tend to show fewer stains and require washing a bit less than the more pristine white aprons of head chefs. With a job that requires more messy work, cooks are advised to wear either black or dark blue and striped aprons.

While the blue-and-white striped apron was originally a butcher’s apron, it has made its way into the restaurant kitchen in recent decades.

chef preparing salad

Why Are Chef’s Aprons So Long?

The reason that a chef’s apron is long is due to safety reasons. For example, if boiling a hot pot of water, the risk of the water spilling over and causing a burn is reduced when wearing a long apron. It will protect the legs and waist from hot liquids.

Other Advantages of Long Aprons

It also offers other benefits, such as reducing the risk of stains or smells on the chef’s undergarments. The large pockets in long aprons also provide chefs with a place to put their tools or appliances.

Long aprons also provide an even better method for ensuring the meals, appetisers, and desserts are cooked hygienically. 

Why Do Chefs Wear Half Aprons?

Sometimes, chefs may wear a half apron or a waist apron when they are wearing a chef’s jacket or a piece of clothing that they are fine with getting messy or stained. Furthermore, cooks who do not spend as much time in the same kitchen space may benefit from a half apron.

This type of apron makes it much easier to walk around the restaurant and move throughout the kitchen. Servers or waiters are also more likely to wear half aprons. These aprons tend to have large pockets in the front, allowing waiters to hold pens and notepads.

How Often Do Chefs Wash Their Aprons?

Generally, chefs wash aprons after every few days of wearing them. Most chefs wear the aprons for no more than a week before putting them in the washing machine and dryer.

However, if the apron gets very messy due to spills, then chefs definitely throw the apron in the wash right away. Furthermore, aprons used for baking often get flour all over them, which means they need to be washed more often. You may want to wash an apron after one day of baking.

In a normal week, aprons need washing every two days. However, sometimes, chefs go through a couple of aprons in one day, especially if they get meat juices on them.

Typically, you can get a couple of uses out of an apron before putting it in the wash.

Do You Need an Apron for Cooking at Home?

An apron is an excellent idea if you’re cooking something that can get messy (think of spaghetti sauce, chilli, or lasagna). Even when cooking some teriyaki chicken, you would benefit from wearing an apron. With an apron, you’ll protect your clothes from stains, spills, and smells.

Most importantly, you’ll be protected from flames on the stove and heat when handling pots and pans. Furthermore, if your apron includes pockets, you can put washcloths or even oven mitts inside the pockets. That way, you’ll easily clean off a surface or open the oven when needed.

apron for cooking at home

Who Invented Aprons?

Since aprons have been around for many centuries, there is no evidence of a particular inventor of the apron. For example, Assyrian priests and Ancient Egyptian pharaohs are believed to have regularly worn aprons.

During the Medieval Ages, the apron became a symbol of cooking in the home or taking care of the household. It was also a common symbol of artists at the time. Medieval paintings from the 1300s show the use of the typical cloth apron among the peasants.

Within another 200 years, the nobility began displaying intricate and stunning aprons in their fashion, particularly in women’s gowns.

Why Do Chefs Wear White?

Traditionally, chefs wore white to signify cleanliness. It was thought that a truly superior chef was a clean chef who did not make a mess of his uniform.

Avoiding staining the uniform was important, and the white colour could more easily identify whether they stained their garments or not. The point was to quickly identify any spills or stains so that the chef could change their uniform right away. 

This reduces health risks, including cross-contaminating food or preventing potential allergens from ending up in a meal. 

What Are the Other Parts of a Chef’s Uniform?

Other parts of a chef’s uniform include the hat, the jacket, baggy pants, and comfortable shoes with anti-slip soles. 

The chef’s hat or cap keeps the cook’s hair or sweat from falling into the food. The chef’s jacket has long sleeves to prevent the arms from potential burns. The jacket also has two layers of fabric to keep the chef safer in case of a grease fire.

Baggy pants also keep potential hot spills or flames from reaching the skin. They also allow for quick and effortless removal in case of an accident. Lastly, comfortable shoes are essential since chefs are often on their feet cooking in the kitchen all day.