chefcoat.jpeg
I've spent so much time over the last three weeks gushing over the fantastic things Seattle has - Farmer's markets! Fresh shellfish! Soymilk! - that

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Are Seattle Chefs Getting Too Comfortable?

chefcoat.jpeg
I've spent so much time over the last three weeks gushing over the fantastic things Seattle has - Farmer's markets! Fresh shellfish! Soymilk! - that I didn't immediately notice what the restaurant scene was missing.

"Have you noticed how the chefs here don't wear chef jackets?," culinary educator Naomi Kakiuchi asked me when we met for lunch last week.

According to Kakiuchi, local chefs are so intent on appearing casual and earthy that they've ditched their uniforms. As she understands it, chefs have traded their starched coats for everyday shirts as a way of signaling their sincerity and closeness to their food.

This is all new to me: Back in Dallas, where I last worked, diners fretted about restaurants no longer requiring their customers to don jackets. An unbuttoned chef would have been unthinkable. Chefs there are so inextricably linked with their signature coats that I'll probably remember Dean Fearing's cowboy boot insignia and Scott Romano's striped shoulders long after I've forgotten their faces.

Dallas, no doubt, sits on the other extreme of the jacket spectrum - and suffers from all the conservatism associated with it. But Kakiuchi's question got me wondering whether jacket-shunning also has its disadvantages.

When I took culinary school classes, I loved my chef's jacket. I felt neat and professional wearing it, and - most importantly - I loved being able to splatter food without worrying about my clothes. If I was cooking in my own $45 shirt, I doubt I'd take so many chances in the kitchen. Could a liberated wardrobe end up constraining culinary creativity?

My meals here thus far suggest unjacketed chefs are faring just fine (although I don't envy their dry-cleaning bills.) And a restaurant supply expert tells me it's premature to declare the demise of the chef's jacket - even in Seattle.

"We sell tons of them to schools," Frank Roberts, account manager for The Seattle Restaurant Store, assures me.

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