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How to Hire the Right Chef

You can put your heart and soul into the concept, planning, designing and advertising of your new restaurant but, if you do not have a good chef, then all your work will be for naught. Since your restaurant will only be as good as the food you serve, finding the perfect chef should be your number one priority. The perfect chef will be someone who you can relate to; who will share your vision for making your restaurant stand out among the competition; and someone who makes great food!

Read on to get some ideas as to what to look for as you set out in search of the ideal chef... How to Hire the Right Chef

Qualities of a Good Chef

You may think of a good chef as someone who knows how to be creative in the kitchen, cooking unforgettable masterpieces, but that is only one of the many tasks they will be doing in your restaurant.

So what makes a good chef?

Perhaps first and foremost, a good chef has to be able to handle the fast-paced environment and stress of a commercial kitchen without losing his or her cool. They should have a keen eye for detail, be organized, be able to make quick decisions, have a good business sense, and be able to motivate others. Their responsibilities are varied and many - and culinary expertise is only one of them! 

A good chef should also be passionate about his or her work, yet willing to listen to suggestions and take criticism.  Ideally it should be someone with a few years of experience, who exudes confidence, yet isn't arrogant. And of course, a good chef should know their way around the kitchen. This includes a vast knowledge of all things commercial kitchen including restaurant equipment, cookware, utensils, plating concepts, as well as inventory control, budgeting and more.

From the big picture to the finest details, a good chef will have a grasp of your whole menu and be able to exceute it - flawlessly.

Responsibilities of a Chef

The basic responsibilities of a chef include:

  • Lead a culinary team
  • Create and divide up food prep tasks
  • Oversee kitchen tasks 
  • Communicate effectively with staff
  • Interview and hire kitchen staff
  • Train kitchen staff
  • Budget and inventory control
  • Maintain health and safety in the kitchen

Since a good chef is really a manager, he or she must also be able to plan and execute innovative menu ideas, follow a budget, oversee inventory, supervise the quality and consistency of the end product, and take responsibility for all of the above. They must also be computer savvy and understand all aspects of running a food service business.

So how can you find this ideal candidate?

Recruitment Agencies

A recruitment agency can often do the time-consuming work of finding a suitable candidate for your restaurant. After meeting with you and understanding your requirements, an agency will recruit and interview candidates, check their references, and made sure that they have all the prerequisite skills that you are looking for.

You will then be sent a carefully refined list of candidates to interview so that you can determine if they fit into the vision you have for your food service establishment. Since payment by an agency is usually only requested once a candidate is found, this method can ultimately save you a lot of time and money.

Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Sometimes word-of-mouth referrals will be your ticket to finding the best candidate. Your suppliers and vendors can provide you with inside knowledge of which chefs are unhappy with their current positions and who may be looking for new opportunities. Friends and employees may also know of worthy candidates, or they may have had experiences with chefs who made a strong, positive impression on them while they were dining out.

Advertise the Position

Advertising for a chef online or in local papers is an excellent way to bring in many candidates. To narrow the amount of resumes you get, be as specific as you can about the unique qualities you are looking for in a chef for your particular restaurant.  Do you need your chef to be an expert in a making certain cuisine? Do they need to be especially proficient in the use of a certain type of equipment, for example: a mongolian BBQ range? Are they required to work a specific set of hours? Whatever it may be, this information may be useful to add to your advertisement in order to tweak the candidates that come your way.

Once the resumes pour in, you will need to review them to determine who to bring in for an interview. There are many resources online to help you formulate great questions to ask candidates, and the internet is also a great resource for looking up information about your candidates. 

Finally, having candidates actually try out some of their recipes in your commercial kitchen and watching how they work and interact with others, will help you make your final decision about finding the right chef for your restaurant. 

Found this article helpful? Read more relevant articles and how-to's in the food service industry.