Although it is not part of the traditional chef’s uniform, most chefs have considered wearing shorts at one time or another, but are chefs allowed to wear shorts?
Whilst some are able to cool themselves sipping iced drinks in the garden with their feet in a paddling pool, chefs are going to work incredibly long hours in unbearable heat. (How many hours do chefs work?) This leads chefs to try and find ways of keeping themselves at a humane temperature.
The food standards agency does not specifically state that chefs should not wear shorts whilst working in the kitchen. However, there are other guidelines which must be taken into account.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency produces guidelines and codes of best practice which are up to each qualified chef and business to interpret in their own way.
As mentioned above, the guidelines do not specifically exclude the wearing of shorts. However, this does not mean we can all instantly take the scissors to our chef trousers!
Below is a screen grab taken from the food standards agency website regarding personal hygiene for those working with food.
The section regarding work clothes is where we need to pay attention. It states that;
“Work clothes should minimise skin coming into contact with food and prevent hairs, fibres and the contents of pockets (which can carry bacteria) getting into food. Light colours show dirt clearly.”F.S.A
My interpretation is that the majority of chefs would struggle to argue that shorts comply with this guideline. Wearing shorts leaves a lot of extra skin on display that could come into contact with the food.
The hairs on our legs could contaminate food, for example by scratching our bare leg and then touching food. This is similar to how hair is transferred from our heads to food when not wearing a hat.
We may think that our legs are below bench level so this transfer is unlikely. But we need to remember that we store a lot of food at low level, on the shelf below our work benches, the bottom shelves of stores and fridges etc. All adding to the risk of unwanted hair transfer.
Wearing Shorts Could Be Considered Dangerous In The Kitchen
Alongside the food hygiene impact, there is also the safety aspect to consider of chefs wearing shorts.
Kitchens are full of hot items ready to burn us with the slightest mistake. Wearing an apron and long trousers offer us some degree of protection from burns. (Do chefs really wear clogs?)
Brushing against low level ovens and hot stoves may go unnoticed in trousers. with our legs exposed all these dangers become more apparent.
If we do spill a hot liquid onto us being able to quickly remove our apron and trousers helps to minimise the injuries caused. By wearing shorts we take away this protection with our bare skin bearing the brunt of the burns.
Our legs will be also be exposed to any spitting fats or hot liquids.
Insurance may also play a role here. If a chef injures themselves and the insurer discovers they where wearing shorts rather than the usual uniform that they should have been, the insurer may not be willing to pay for any claims that arise.
Before wearing shorts it is advisable to check with your insurer that they are happy with that arrangement.
Chefs Wearing Shorts Doesn’t Look Professional
The third reason chefs don’t tend to wear shorts is the fact that it doesn’t look very professional.
Most head chefs will not like the idea of their brigade turning up wearing shorts. This is a long way from the traditional tall hat, long sleeve jacket and checkered trousers uniform which many chefs still adhere to.
If the head chef is particularly relaxed or the kitchen is not viewable by the public then they may be more open to persuasion, but it may be a conversation best had in advance and when they are in a good mood! (is a head chef the ultimate boss?)
I guess this point comes down largely to the type of kitchen. For example, if a chef is working in a food truck with a much more relaxed atmosphere, appearing ‘unprofessional’ may be a moot point as they are not going for the traditional chef look anyway.
To Sum Up
Some chefs choose to interpret the rules so that they can wear shorts. These chefs need to be certain that they are complying with the relevant regulations and are happy to explain their position to a food hygiene inspector if they pay a visit.
It is up to each individual chef to decide if they are complying with the relevant legislation and regulations.
Lots of info can be found on the Food Standards Agency website (linked here) so that each chef can make their own informed decision.
For me personally I always stuck to trousers. Not only do they look the most professional but also due to the safety aspect, the thought of spilling hot liquid on bare legs is terrifying.
I also feel that I would find it difficult to convince a food hygiene inspector that my shorts didn’t compromise the food safety if they chose to pay a visit that day.
This article is simply my opinion. I am by no means an expert on food safety and everyone should do their own due diligence to ensure they are complying with all relevant laws and regulations.