The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Chef

Chefs are the rockstars of the restaurant industry. Here's the smart way to hire one for your restaurant.

Let’s face it: Executive Chefs are like rock stars in the restaurant industry. They can gain bigger-than-life reputations, drawing patrons solely based on their persona. However, their daily performance is also pivotal to a restaurant’s bottom line. Whether you are replacing an existing chef, filling an open position, or starting a new restaurant, here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” to keep in mind when hiring chefs:

DO Be Strategic with Your Tastings

Sure, you want the chef to be able to create and execute delicious food under pressure, but it doesn’t need to be a Food Network cooking challenge. Depending on how much creativity the role will require, you can ask the chef to create specific dishes or let them choose the menu. If extreme creativity and menu development is not part of the role, give your chef plenty of time to prepare. They will already be in a new kitchen and out of their comfort zone. Focus on how they conduct themselves in the kitchen.

DON’T Skip References

Even if the interviews go well and the candidate impresses the panel in their tasting, never skip their references. While you do want to give a chef candidate the benefit of the doubt in their interviews, it’s best to verify everything about their previous employment. You will also have a more thorough picture of their strengths and weaknesses.

DO Look for Leadership Skills

While a “my way or the highway” leadership approach was once common (even expected) chefs need more nuanced leadership skills than that these days. Turnover is higher than ever in restaurants, so an executive chef must be able to develop existing talent and motivate staff. Learn about some of those key leadership traits to look for here.

DON’T Get Hung Up on a Formal Degree

While it can be tempting to seek out a fancy Cordon Bleu-trained chef, most chefs have gained the most knowledge and skills during their industry experience. Yes, executive chefs need financial acumen, and a traditional degree helps. But you could miss out on some exceptional talent by passing over experienced chefs trained at a lesser-known institute, or with no degree at all.

DO Look for Results

Chefs, especially Executive Chefs, have a huge impact on a restaurant’s bottom line. Be sure to ask them how they have improved operations, reduced food loss, or had other financial impacts in their previous positions.

DO Lean on Your Culinary Recruiting Resources

Job boards, LinkedIn, and networking are great places to start in finding culinary talent. But the most talented and experienced chefs usually aren’t actively looking for a job. Partner with experienced chef recruiters to find culinary talent for your restaurant, hotel, private club, and even senior living facility. The recruiters at Horizon Hospitality have a vast database of experienced chefs and industry connections. Contact us today to get started!


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