The Strange Connection Between Eggs And Chef's Hats

If there's one thing the French might be better at than cooking amazing food, it's probably their panache for ceremonial pomp and circumstance. It would certainly appear that the traditional chef's uniform and its symbolism fall into that category. Chefs Auguste Escoffier and Marie-Antonine Carême are those responsible for the white uniform that instantly pops into your mind when you imagine a proper chef (via Bon Appetit). Though Escoffier was behind the uniform, Carême made the chef's hat, which is technically called a "toque," the ubiquitous symbol it is today.

"Toque blanche," meaning white hat, became the norm for the chef's uniform because it represented the most sanitary of conditions that the chefs were working in (via The Daily Meal). No one wants to see the person responsible for preparing their meal covered in anything unsavory, after all. While the uniform itself is logical, what you might not know is the connection the toque has to the chef wearing it, and the link between the two is eggs.

The pleats and height represent knowledge

Legend, it seems, has it that the number of pleats in a chef's toque signifies how many ways the chef could prepare an egg. The ultimate standard to achieve was 100 pleats, which indicated that the wearer was a master (via Mental Floss). Overall, the more pleats the chef wears, the more skill, experience, knowledge, and rank the chef has, according to The Daily Meal. This same correspondence can be made with the height of the chef's hat. It's believed that Carême wore a toque that was a foot and a half tall in the 19th century. It's even said cardboard was needed to keep her hat from flopping over. 

This isn't a conspiracy from the outside looking into the kitchen, either. Even Jacques Pepin weighed in on the subject for Bon Appetit. He said, "I'm familiar with the French adage that says the 100 folds represent 100 ways to cook an egg, but I'm not sure where it comes from." So, the next time you see a chef wearing a toque, note just how tall it is and how tightly packed the pleats are.