MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every Friday, we tackle a bunch of viewers’ burning questions. This week, Heather Brown explores chefs hats, apples and the speaker of the house.

Connie from Menagha asks: Why do chefs wear those hats?

According to Willa Zhen, a food anthropologist at the Culinary Institute of America, “Like many traditions, it’s hard to know exactly how this one was adopted.”

Several theories abound about the chef’s hat, or toque blanche, which is French for “white hat.” Zhen says one of theories dates back to ancient Assyrians, whose chefs wore hats to show they were loyal to a particular household. Another theory originates with the Byzantine empire, when chefs lived in Greek monasteries after fleeing persecution.

But how the modern chef’s hat became popular could date back to the early 19th century when Europe’s “first celebrity chef,” Marie-Antonie Careme, worked as a private chef with royals and diplomats, including Lord Stewart in 1821.

“He invented the toque straightening out from a floppy beret,” said Zhen. “Lord Stewart thought it looked sharp.”

Now that hat, just like a doctor’s coat or a firefighter’s uniform, has become synonymous with the professionalism of a chef.

After House Speaker John Boehner announced he’s stepping down, Andrea from Minneapolis wanted to know: How is the new Speaker chosen?

According to the U.S. Constitution, “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” The Speaker must be elected by a majority of representatives who cast a ballot. The constitution doesn’t require the speaker to be a member of the House, but they always have been. The vote in the House to replace Boehner is scheduled to take place Oct. 8.

Jill from Lonsdale had heard that apples only grow every other year. She wanted to know: Is that true?

“No, not entirely,” said Lowell Schaper, owner of Minnetonka Orchards. “Some apples have a tendency to produce a bigger crop one year and smaller crop the next, it can be controlled through management of the tree.”

Schaper said Haralson or the new Honey Crisps have been known to produce smaller crops every other year, but Honeygolds and Sweet Tangos consistently produce large crops every year.

Heather Brown

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