An apron is an important part of the traditional chef’s uniform, and it’s a functional piece of clothing that needs to be up to the challenges of a busy kitchen. Even the simple and classic white apron can come in a variety of fabrics, and you may have to decide which one will suit you best.
This is the standard for aprons, and is a perfect material for the average chef for day-to-day use. It’s easy to find, very durable and soft enough to move freely as you move around the kitchen. Like with any fabric, it’s not perfect though. Cotton isn’t water-resistant and can easily get wet. A little spill now and then is fine, but if you work with a lot of liquid, the apron can get soaked, and you’ll lose it’s protective layer as your clothes underneath start to get wet too. An easy solution is to have a couple aprons on hand so you can switch them out if one does get too wet to work. Or chose a more moisture-resistant material (which we’ll soon get too).
Cotton will also hold a stain easily, unless you are able to get your aprons in the wash right away. Not great if you like a clean apron every day.
And to add to your options, there are varying qualities and forms of cotton aprons. There are aprons made from lighter cotton, all the way to a very sturdy and heavy denim.
Rubber, Plastic, Nylon
All of these materials can help with that moisture issue that cotton is weak at handling. If you find you get a lot of liquid on your apron, you should look into getting something water-proof. Any of these materials will be suitable. For the chef who tends to wipe their hands on their apron, this won’t work very well though. A combo of rubber-backed cotton can be the perfect mix of materials if you prefer something less slick on the outside surface.
For strength and durability, nothing beats a leather apron. These are usually used for non-cooking industrial purposes but a chef that does a lot of grilling might want to consider one. Actually, any cooking that involves dishes with open flames can be risky. Leather aprons are excellent protection from flames, sparks as well as sharp instruments. They do tend to be fairly heavy and won’t move as smoothly as you are working though. A good leather apron will cost you but you can expect to use it for many years.
A chef doesn’t have to rely on a single apron though. Having a couple of them in different materials offers some choice, and lets you keep your uniform protected in the best way possible in different situations. Perhaps a standard cotton apron for your usual meal preparations, but have a nice leather one on hand for the days you’re working over an open fire. You aren’t limited to just one.
There are also a number of different styles, like the full-bib apron or the waist-down bistro apron. So you might find that one material works better for one style of apron, but not for another. Go with whatever works for you and your cooking.