It drives me crazy to see the lack of discipline and respect for the profession of cooking that exists in so many kitchens today. How we maintain our kitchens, care for our uniforms, attend to basic grooming, treat the ingredients that we work with and interact with others defines how others perceive our industry. To some, this may be unimportant, however there are thousands of cooks, chefs and restaurateurs who have dedicated their lives to building up a profession who would disagree.

Let’s begin with the uniform. The cook’s uniform represents so much that may be unknown to most.

“It’s all about pride. If you have it in your profession, you will have it in your uniform, no matter what your walk of life. With the Chef’s uniform, there is more at stake than just keeping the uniform clean and white. A dignified look helps generate a feeling of professionalism. When you don the toque, jacket, checkered pants (black), necktie, apron and side towel, you are continuing centuries old traditions.”


The chef’s hat or toque evolved over time until Chef Escoffier defined how it helped to establish rank in the kitchen. The taller the toque, the higher the position in the kitchen with the executive chef donning the hat with the greatest height. This made it easy for anyone to find those in a position of responsibility. Additionally, the number of pleats on the hat represents a chef’s level of expertise. A classic chefs toque was purported to have 100 pleats representing his or her ability to prepare an egg 100 different ways. The chefs coat with its double breasted flaps has a purpose of adding another layer of protection against burns, a second chance at maintaining cleanliness (reversing the flaps if one side becomes stained during work), and represents the importance of cleanliness in the kitchen. The side towel is not to be used for cleaning, but rather a dry cloth to be used on hot pan handles and removing items from the oven while protecting a cooks hands. Proper shoes are used for support of the most important part of a chef’s body (his or her feet) and are structured to protect against pans that might be dropped on feet during busy service. This long history of the uniform pays respect for all of the chefs who came before. Those who do not understand this might find it justified wearing baseball caps or sweat bands, jackets that seem to emphasize style vs. function, pants that are less about protecting the image of cleanliness and professionalism than something that portrays the desire of a cook to stand out in a crowd and shoes that are best suited for the track or basketball court and less about protection from accidents and 10-12 hours of work on your feet. Every time that a cook ignores the traditions associated with the pride behind a uniform he or she diminishes the perception that the world has about the profession of cooking.

How we treat the equipment in our kitchens, the physical plant, and the ingredients that we work with sets the tone for the respect that others have for what we do. Cleanliness of facilities and proper maintenance of equipment is critical to the function of a kitchen team. A clean kitchen is a proud kitchen and a proud kitchen produces better food. The farmer invests his or her life to grow the crops that wind up in restaurant coolers. If a cook spent even one full day working on a farm he or she would likely approach those carrots, onions and potatoes in a much different way. Proper storage, handling, cleaning, cutting and cooking demonstrate respect for the farmer as well as the ingredient. It is appalling to see how little respect many cooks have for those precious ingredients that we are privileged to handle.

Finally, if a cook wants to receive respect for what he or she does, if they want to be able to hold their head high when someone asks what they do for a living, if they want opportunities to grow within their profession and reach a level of earning that allows them to provide adequately for their families then they must learn how to show respect for the people they work with and serve. How a person treats co-workers and guests is paramount to establishing how others will view them and what they do for a living. There is a harmless banter that occurs in kitchens that has a long history of acceptance, however, that banter sometimes is tasteless and hurtful to others. Cooks need to learn how to differentiate dialogue and behavior that all can find fun and conversations, passing remarks or looks that cause pain and define what is known as a “hostile work environment”. Harmless banter to one might be considered harassment to others and it is the responsibility of chefs and cooks to understand the difference and establish an environment of support rather than dissention in the kitchen.

Working in restaurants is a wonderful career choice – one that can provide incredible pride, moments of significant accomplishment, a level of camaraderie that is hard to find elsewhere, and potential for professional growth for those who are serious and committed. Creating an environment of professionalism through standards and consistently enforced positive discipline is essential if we are to continue to improve on the respect that those inside and outside of our industry have for individuals who choose to cook.

Harvest America Ventures, LLC


  1. Thanks, as always Chef…for your words of wisdom and high standards! I have already printed off copies of this article to share with my kitchen staff!

    1. Thank you Chef. As a aspiring culinary professional and considered a ‘mature’ student, I find that the standards actually in practice in kitchens are so varied in dress and deportment that it is nice to see someone taking a stand on tradition. It provides those of us that venturing forward in this profession with the necessary guidance, direction and mentorship to emulate and grow.

      Sincerest regards,

      1. Scott, I agree with you. Kitchens have changed since I was last in one, I am also a mature student. But I have noticed that as I am working with a younger team, and showing up in uniform and setting standards, that they will follow. I can only hope you and I will set trends for the young teams to come.

  2. It’s remarkable in support of me to have a web site,
    which is beneficial in favor of my know-how. thanks admin

  3. You could definitely see your skills within the article you write.

    The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like
    you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

    1. Jerold Hawthorne Avatar
      Jerold Hawthorne

      Very encouraging statements go along way. Setting yourself up for success can have obstacles in your way, Just continue to fight the wrong and the prize on the other side.

  4. Martha Stevenson Avatar
    Martha Stevenson

    I take great pride in becoming the best Chef I can be. Really from the Chef’s that I’ve been training under they were the best.Thanks a million to all my instructors.

  5. Lakisha Brookins Avatar
    Lakisha Brookins

    this is good advice to mention.

  6. Thank you for your words of wisdom because I feel the same about when and where I show up to cook for my patrons.

  7. Randy R Richmond Avatar
    Randy R Richmond

    I have been in the food service industry since I was sixteen I have seen it all. The main thing that always upset me as a cook or chef is hygiene. This seems to always be an issue no matter where I worked. My food may not be the best. I can guarantee clean chef clean work area most important u want get sick.

    1. I just started my externship and the uniform isn’t highly regarded unless there’s a special event which I’m a bit concerned about. I think everyone should dress the part, be neat, clean, & safe. It startled me to see cooks in the kitchen like we were at a baseball game. That rests w/ the head chef. When I get to that status you can be certain the uniform will be worn, respected & clean.

  8. Deebra Cooper Avatar
    Deebra Cooper

    I have been in Kitchens since I was a little girl and I too have seen many different things. In most kitchens today, there are way too many chiefs and no Indians. People do not have the respect for the kitchen like back in the day. I have also seen some very professional kitchens, that where so clean it didn’t even looked used. This all has been very helpful and fun to learn.

    1. I agree with you I’ve been in the kitchen cooking for large families ever since the age of seven years old as I can remember and as far as working in professional kitchens and bath all restaurants I have seen so many things that I’m surprised that I still want to be in this field. I know that professionalism will take me a long way that’s why I use it in my every day life and in my workplace

    2. Jocelyn Harrison Avatar
      Jocelyn Harrison

      Hi Debra,

      How do we fix that? Maybe more articles like this need to be written. Maybe the ACF needs to address more. I don’t know. I’m new to the profession but feel a high level of professionalism is a must. The uniform of a chef should be like that of a service man or woman. Clean, sharp, and highly regarded by every chef & cook.

  9. Claris Matuh Ndifor Avatar
    Claris Matuh Ndifor

    Chefs thanks very much for the advise .All what you said is true because I have seen that in many places .Being a chef or a cook is a profession of dignity that goes a long way but due to ignorance most people still continue to disrespect the profession.

    1. Yea that is true I have seen it to some people are disrespectful very rude.

  10. You really have to love what you do. When you are passionate, you take time, care, and love in the kitchen and to the people you serve. You adapt to different things. Love what you do first.

    1. Jocelyn Harrison Avatar
      Jocelyn Harrison

      I agree. Though I can say that it seems like chefs like what they do, some just want the casual. I think that’s fine for a BBQ but not the kitchen. Maybe more articles like this need to be written. Maybe the ACF needs to address more. I don’t know. I’m new to the profession but feel a high level of professionalism is a must. The uniform of a chef should be like that of a service man or woman. Clean, sharp, and highly regarded by every chef & cook.

  11. Love what you are passionate about and it will grow on you.

  12. Jazmine Hundley Avatar
    Jazmine Hundley

    I think this is all important to keep the proper attire and equipment . It becomes a routine, that everyone should be following. It makes it look more like a professional setting as well..

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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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