A chef serves one of the most important roles in your restaurant, which is why you’re so dismayed that the chefs you’ve hired to this point haven’t worked out. You need someone dedicated, talented, and passionate who’s in it for the long haul. In short, you need a good chef. How do you find one?
Here are some tips for finding a good chef:
- Use specialty job boards
- Or a recruitment agency
- Rely on referrals
- Write a good job description
- Know what you want
- Ask them to cook for you
- Consider having a second interview
Hiring a good chef may seem easy when you boil it down to some bullet points, but we all know it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Keep reading for more information so you can make a hiring decision you’re proud of!
1. Use Specialty Job Boards
If you want to attract just anyone to your job listing, then use general job boards like Indeed or Monster.
However, we know you don’t want just anyone. You want a superstar chef who can transform your restaurant and earn you the kind of raving reviews that drive business.
While sure, there’s always a chance a chef like this might check general job boards, more than likely, they’re on specialty boards.
Whether you post your listing on Culinary Agents, Culintro, Poached, or The Restaurant Zone (to name a few), you can expect to attract a certain type of job candidate on these boards.
These aren’t people contemplating a new career who figure hey, why not get into the restaurant industry? These are industry professionals looking for their next gig.
There’s another difference between Monster and restaurant job boards, admittedly, and that’s cost. Part of the reason that hiring managers often post on general boards is that they don’t have to pay a cent to do so.
While putting out money upfront isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, sometimes, it’s what you must do to attract quality candidates. You’ll more than recoup what you spent on the job listing later when you hire a chef who sticks with your restaurant for years to come.
2. Or a Recruitment Agency
Another hiring avenue you can pursue is going through a recruitment agency.
Recruitment agencies collect job candidate information and then seek open roles for those candidates. Since these agencies exist for all sorts of different industries, make sure you look into hospitality and restaurant recruitment agencies.
You’d contact a recruiter, tell them about your listing (including the location, hours, job responsibilities, and rate of pay), and then wait until they find a suitable candidate.
We’d only suggest a recruitment agency if you’re not in a huge rush to hire your next chef. These agencies can sometimes get back to you slowly, as they have to find a good match.
If you can afford to wait, with a bit of patience, you should have a stellar candidate or several who could fulfill the open chef role.
You should still interview the potential chef to see how they gel with your company culture and if they’re ready for life in your restaurant.
3. Rely on Referrals
If you’re still struggling to find a chef, why not look into your vast network of contacts and see if they can help?
You can’t ask around internally to just anyone to avoid murky ethical waters, so be strategic. For example, don’t discuss this matter with your staff, but it would be okay to talk about hiring a chef with your HR professional.
They might be able to refer you to someone great, or perhaps a vendor knows someone. Maybe it’s a contact outside of your restaurant who can recommend you a potential chef to interview. You never know until you try.
4. Write a Good Job Description
No matter how you search for a chef, be that through a restaurant job board, referrals, or a recruitment agency, if you don’t put together a quality job listing, you’re not going to attract very good candidates.
This is something we’ve discussed on the blog before. You need to dive into as much detail as required in your job listing to bring in high-quality candidates.
Everyone knows what a chef does, but what specifically do you want yours to do? List the responsibilities clearly. Mention the hours the chef will work and–most importantly–list the pay.
If you’re not comfortable sharing the exact rate of compensation a chef would receive, at least provide a range, or otherwise give the job candidate an idea of what they’ll make for their hard work.
It’s not really enough to say “competitive pricing” or “good pay rate” because those terms can mean different things to different people. What’s much harder to misinterpret is a pay range.
Few job candidates want to ask about money during the first interview, but they need to know what they’d make working at a job, so they feel inclined to bring it up.
When you provide this information in the listing, you allow the topic of money to come up naturally. That’s a lot less awkward for everyone.
5. Know What You Want
You can’t possibly hire a good chef until you know what you’re looking for in one. That may require you to sit down with other key stakeholders in your restaurant to go over it, or you may decide on your own.
So what kinds of traits should you look for in an ideal chef? Here’s a list to get you started, but feel free to add to this list yourself or change it according to what you want for your future restaurant staff.
A chef has to be obsessed with the smallest details, especially if they’ll work at a fine dining establishment. Customers will have come to expect a certain level of quality with the dishes they receive, and it’s the chef’s job to live up to that with each meal they plate.
Good at Multitasking
Working in a restaurant requires multitasking; there’s no other way around it. Your ideal chef shouldn’t falter when handling several responsibilities at once.
Working as a chef introduces room for creativity, so a good chef should take advantage of that and have fun with the foods they prepare. That doesn’t mean getting lax on the job, but flexing their creative muscles when they can to make a dish even better.
Cool Under Pressure
Let’s not mince words here: the restaurant industry is an extremely high-pressure, stressful one to work in. A chef should have prior experience in restaurants so they don’t get overwhelmed easily.
Even when the orders are backing up or they suddenly run out of an ingredient, a chef will remain cool and collected so they can concentrate on the task at hand.
The ideal candidate for the job should have a strong understanding and intimate knowledge of restaurant POS systems and other software. If they don’t, they should be fast learners so you can teach them.
Quick on Their Feet
Kitchen disasters happen all the time in a restaurant. They’re truly par for the course. When things go sideways, how a chef reacts tells a lot about what kind of hire they’ll be.
They shouldn’t blame anyone else or expect someone else to fix the mess. Instead, a good chef should begin actively brainstorming solutions without missing a beat.
A collegiate background in culinary arts looks great on a chef’s resume. This combined with their experience, gives you confidence in your hiring decision.
6. Ask Them to Cook for You
While skills matter when hiring a chef, the most important skill is how good they are at preparing food. Rather than take their word for it, you might have the chef prepare a special meal during an interview.
You could request only a single course or a multi-course meal with an appetizer, main entrée, side, and dessert. This allows you to experience for yourself how well the chef cooks and whether their menu ideas would slot into what you serve at your restaurant.
7. Consider Having a Second Interview
If you have the time, it will behoove you in making a conscientious hiring decision if you have a second interview with a chef you want to hire.
Perhaps in the first interview, you focus more on hard skills and soft skills. Then, during the second interview, you could ask them to cook for you, or vice-versa.
A second interview allows you to get to know the job candidate better, ask deeper and more thorough questions, and better judge whether they’ll fit in with your kitchen staff. You can also introduce the potential hire to other staff within your restaurant to gain their opinions.
Finding a good chef starts with you. Skip the general job boards and pay to post on restaurant-specific boards. Write a high-quality listing making clear exactly what you’re looking for in a chef.
Meet with the chef for an interview at least once, and ask them to cook for you!