- Chefs wear lightweight, breathable clothing and undershirts to stay cool.
- Proper air conditioning systems like extract fans circulate air and remove heat.
- Taking breaks in walk-in refrigerators provides temporary relief.
- Drinking plenty of water keeps the body hydrated and cool.
- Floor fans provide cooling airflow at foot level.
- Compression tops worn under chef coats help with sweat control.
Working in a hot, humid kitchen day after day can be an enormous physical challenge for chefs and cooks. Professional kitchens easily reach temperatures over 100°F, with some equipment like ovens and grills pushing the mercury even higher. Adding to the heat is the non-stop motion, multi-tasking, and hustle required to get meals cooked and plated for hungry customers.
With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that cooling down is a top priority for culinary professionals. This article will comprehensively evaluate the various techniques and best practices chefs use to beat the heat and stay as cool as possible in the kitchen. Key factors like clothing, airflow, hydration, and periodic cooling breaks will be covered in detail. Readers will gain insight into the unique struggles chefs face regarding temperature regulation and discover smart solutions that keep cooks comfortable on the hot line.
Whether you’re a chef yourself, work in a restaurant, or are just curious about how kitchen crews handle the heat, this guide will provide a deep look at time-tested methods chefs rely on to stay cool under pressure. The ability to function at 100% while working in intense kitchen conditions requires specialized gear, preparation, and knowledge. With summer in full swing, there’s no better time to learn chef secrets for keeping cool and carrying on. Let’s dive into how to conquer kitchen heat from head to toe!
How Do Chefs Keep Their Heads and Necks Cool?
A chef’s head and neck are particularly vulnerable to overheating due to exertion, close proximity to heat sources, and the insulation of a hat or head covering. Smart chefs utilize specialized headwear and other techniques to prevent this crucial area from becoming hot and sweaty.
Lightweight Chef Hats
The traditional tall, pleated chef’s hat is designed to allow heat and moisture to escape while protecting heads from burns. Modern chef hats are made from lightweight, breathable materials like cotton to maximize airflow. Moisture-wicking headbands underneath hats keep sweat off foreheads. Disposable paper hats are a low-cost option for hot kitchens.
Bandanas and headscarves that can be soaked in cold water provide wet-cooling relief for necks and foreheads. This evaporation effect may need to be reapplied multiple times per shift as items dry out.
Neck Cooling Ties/Scarves
Specialty scarves and ties containing cooling gels or ice packs are worn around the neck to reduce sweating and lower body temperature. As body heat warms the items, the cooling agents draw heat away from the skin.
Keeping hair up and off the neck is crucial for allowing heat to dissipate. Ponytails, braids, and short styles are common for cooks battling high temperatures. Long loose hair risks retaining heat and moisture.
How Do Chefs Keep Their Bodies and Arms Cool?
A chef’s body and arms bear the brunt of kitchen heat and motion. Strategic clothing choices and periodic cooling breaks help chefs regulate body temperature during long, hot shifts.
Breathable Chef Coats
Standard polyester chef coats trap heat and sweat next to the body. Coats made from natural fibers like cotton or bamboo, or moisture-wicking athletic materials allow maximum airflow. Vents under the arms, mesh panels, and minimal coat linings also boost breathability.
Wearing a sweat-wicking athletic undershirt under the chef coat helps absorb moisture and keeps the coat itself dry. This allows evaporative cooling right against the skin. Some chefs wear compression tops as a base layer for added cooling.
Rolling Up Sleeves
When possible, chefs roll up coat sleeves to expose forearms and promote evaporative cooling from sweat. Arm openings are often elasticized to allow easy on-off rolling.
Periodic Breaks in Cool Areas
Ducking into a walk-in fridge/freezer or stepping into an air-conditioned break room lets overheated bodies cool down for a few minutes. Even a brief break from the heat goes a long way.
How Do Chefs Keep Their Hands and Feet Cool?
Hands and feet need specialized attention in hot kitchens where shoes and gloves are required attire. Chefs rely on advanced materials and occasional breaks to let these extremities stay cool.
Thick, insulating kitchen clogs can turn feet into sweat lodges. Lightweight moisture-wicking socks paired with clogs help keep feet dry. Some chefs periodically swap out sweat-drenched socks for fresh dry ones.
Breathable Clog Materials
Traditional wooden clogs retain heat. Clog brands designed with open backs, perforated uppers, and lightweight rubber soles promote air circulation around feet. Mesh or canvas clog uppers allow maximum breathability.
Insoles embedded with cooling gel packs or designed to wick moisture away from feet work wonders in hot clogs. Swapping standard insoles for active cooling insoles helps prevent hot feet.
Frequent Glove Changes
Hands sweat profusely in the tight confines of plastic kitchen gloves. Swapping gloves out multiple times during a shift for fresh, dry ones prevents an internal sauna effect.
Running Hands Under Cool Water
When time allows, rinsing hands under cool, running water brings instant hand relief. Some chefs keep a dedicated cooling towel soaked in ice water to periodically wrap hands in.
How Can Kitchens Be Designed for Cooling?
While individual chefs take personal steps to stay cool, restaurants also implement design and equipment strategies to help beat kitchen heat.
High-powered exhaust hoods over cooking equipment remove hot air, smoke, and steam. Robust ventilation is critical for temperature regulation. Some systems recirculate cooled air from HVAC units.
Extractor fans mounted high on walls pull rising hot air out of the kitchen. This continually brings in fresh, cooler air from the dining area or outdoors. Positioned correctly, the air movement is felt but fans don’t blow directly on chefs.
Designated cooling stations with misters, cooling fans, chilled towels, and water give overheated chefs targeted relief in hot zones. Stations are positioned out of high traffic paths.
Radiant Floor Heating/Cooling
Radiant systems circulate cooled or heated liquid through pipes under the floor. This leaves work zones clear while gently equalizing ambient temperatures.
Smart Thermostat Programming
Programmable thermostats ensure kitchens don’t overcool during off hours but efficiently maintain set temperatures during peak operation. Key hours and days are programmed appropriately to balance cooling needs and energy costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of chef shirts are best for staying cool?
Lightweight, breathable chef coats made from moisture-wicking performance fabrics or natural fibers like cotton and bamboo allow the most airflow and cooling. Mesh panels and vented underarms also help.
Should chefs wear compression gear in hot kitchens?
Yes, moisture-wicking compression tops and leggings worn under chef uniforms help reduce sweating while stabilizing body temperatures. Just take care that compressed areas don’t overheat.
How often should kitchen socks be changed?
Plan to change socks at least twice per shift in hot kitchens – swap out thoroughly sweat-soaked socks for clean, dry pairs to prevent blisters while cooling feet. Some chefs keep multiple pairs in their locker.
Should chefs wear hats or headbands?
Yes, lightweight chef hats or sweat-wicking headbands help prevent sweat from dripping into eyes while shielding heads from heat. Neck cooling ties or wet bandanas add supplemental cooling power.
Can portable fans effectively cool commercial kitchens?
Strategically positioned floor fans and mounted ventilation fans effectively improve air circulation in kitchens. Just avoid blowing air directly on chefs and food prepping spaces for safety.
Working long hours in hot, humid, and fast-paced kitchens brings inevitable strain to a chef’s body. However, implementing specialized clothing, smart kitchen design, hydration tactics, and periodic breaks allows culinary professionals to power through the shifts with minimal discomfort. While chef coats and hats provide basic protection, breathable performance fabrics take cooling to the next level. Staying hydrated, capitalizing on cooling breaks, and using additional accessories as needed gives chefs enhanced control over personal temperature regulation. Restaurant owners also play a role by installing proper ventilation and HVAC systems for overall kitchen climate control. With the right preparation and tools, chefs can beat the heat – and have fun doing it!