Find and Hire the Best Chef
Whether you own a restaurant or a small cafe, your chef is arguably the most important part of your business. Even if you are hiring a chef for a special event, you will still need to take care in your vetting process.
Hiring a chef entails more than just finding someone who “can cook”. As the central figure in the kitchen, the chef will need to prepare food, manage staff, maintain inventory and much more – all while remaining calm under intense pressure.
In this guide, we will take you through step by step everything you need to know about hiring a chef.
What Makes a Great Chef
There are numerous traits that make every chef unique, but some of the best chefs and culinary experts in the world will share similar qualities. The title of “chef” holds an honor that is achieved by spending countless hours of learning, honing and refining cooking skills day in and day out. The main thing that differentiates a chef from a cook is that a chef typically runs the kitchen and the menu at all times. A chef is the ultimate boss in the kitchen and sets the tone and mood. While not all chefs will have the same personality, and some may be bolder than others, you will find that the greatest of the great share specific characteristics that contribute to their success.
Being a chef is more than just a desire to cook and create – it’s a commitment to the kitchen staff, to the success and growth of the restaurant or business and a commitment to continue to be the best they can be. A committed chef is more than just a creative cook, it’s someone who is also business savvy, who is committed to continuously learning, challenging their skills and techniques and earning the respect of their team.
A great chef is also a great leader. It takes a lot to build a thriving business, and it’s important to have a supportive team that is also dedicated to the goals and vision of the business. A true chef is a team builder with outstanding communication skills who delegates, inspires and mentors his or her staff.
Cooking is the perfect blend of art and science. There are certain skills and techniques that need to be learned and perfected, but these are the tools that a great chef will use to create culinary masterpieces to impress even the most critical dinner guest. The best part about working in a kitchen is coming up with new ideas and taking risks – a great chef is always willing to be creative and try something new. Creativity is important because it inspires different flavor combinations as well as presentation, which is essential to any dining experience. When a chef is passionate and creative, and when they challenge themselves they will truly come up with culinary greatness.
The food and beverage industry is a fast paced business, so it’s important for a great chef to be a quick-thinker who can make good decisions as they go. It’s not uncommon for a tricky situation to arise, which is when it is most important for a chef’s intuition to kick in and lead their team to success.
A good chef will have had a good mentor, and a great chef will serve as an outstanding mentor to their staff. A great chef will be eager to pass down their knowledge to aspiring cooks and will enthusiastically educate their team. There have been many line cooks who have gone on to become executive chefs and award-winning Michelin-star chefs who at one point or another had a great chef as their mentor.
- Attention to Detail
Cooking can be an intricate process that includes measuring out the necessary ingredients and mixing them together to create a flavorful and extraordinary culinary masterpiece. If a chef leaves a piece of steak to cook for a minute too long, forgets a garnish or puts too much dressing on an otherwise perfect salad, it can ruin a perfect meal. There are many details that a chef needs to pay attention to during the cooking process in order to achieve a perfect meal.
In a busy kitchen, it’s important for a great chef to be able to maintain control of the environment while also handling a myriad of tasks related to preparing a meal. All at once, a chef may be cutting up vegetables, sautéing chicken, grabbing additional ingredients and also making sure that everything else is running smoothly. A great chef will remain calm under pressure while navigating multiple tasks and also managing the rest of the kitchen staff.
Responsibilities of a Big Chef
The responsibilities for different types of chefs can vary, but the overall duties remain the same. The three main responsibilities of an overall chef are food preparation, staff management and inventory maintenance.
- Food Preparation
- Preparing and cooking all food to set standards
- Stocking and maintaining food on the line at all times
- Food preparation and portioning prior to service
- Maintaining a sanitary food line at all times
- Plating food promptly and to set standards
- Staff Management
- Manage kitchen staff of # people
- Hiring and staffing kitchen on a nightly basis while keeping labor costs reasonable
- Effective communication skills with kitchen staff
- Oversee menu development and implementation with kitchen staff
- Ensure all work is completed within specific timelines
- Direct and oversee kitchen staff before, during and after dinner service
- Ensure that all food is being sent to dining room exceeding set standards
- Maintain health departments standards at all times
- Inventory & Maintenance
- Estimation of weekly purchasing needs for food and other kitchen materials
- Special ordering for any catering or events
- Receiving and stocking food provisions and other deliveries
- Maintain all surfaces and appliances so that they meet health department standards
Lead repair and maintenance for any kitchen appliances
Different Types of Chefs
There are many different types of chefs. There are the main job roles, like Head Chef, Sous Chef and Commis Chef. Then there are the different specializations like a Saucier and a Pâtissier. From entry-level to the boss, we’ll look at each chef role in the kitchen to help you build your culinary career. Starting from the highest level to the lowest level, here are the common ranks of chefs:
· Head Chef (or Executive Chef)
The Head Chef (also known as the Executive Chef) is the boss of the kitchen. It takes years of experience and time spent in many of the other positions mentioned in this blog to become one. The kitchen is their responsibility and they’ll have the most significant input into the menu.
During a shift, the Head Chef will be in the kitchen to oversee everything is running smoothly. They’ll ask the Sous Chef(s) to assist them. The Head Chef will likely not be involved in any cooking; instead, they’ll make sure all dishes are perfect before going out.
· Sous Chef
The Sous Chef is second-in-command in the kitchen and has been since the late 19th century, assisting the Head Chef in overseeing the kitchen. There can be more than one Sous Chef depending on the size of the kitchen. After all, the Head Chef can’t be in multiple places at once.
The Sous Chef is responsible for checking everything is working smoothly in the kitchen. Communication and an eye for detail are important skills you need to be a Sous Chef.
· Station Chef (or Chef de Partie)
The Station Chef has lots of responsibility on their plate as they’re in charge of one area in the kitchen. They work directly below the Sous Chef within the kitchen hierarchy and they’re responsible for all the chefs working in their area. Most Chef de Parties will specialise in one culinary area (for example, a Pastry Chef) and then be responsible for their team.
It’s important to have good communication skills to make sure everyone in your team knows what they must do to get food out on time.
The Expediter checks the meals are perfectly presented and served correctly before they leave the kitchen.
The Head Chef usually takes on the responsibilities of the Expediter in a small kitchen. But larger kitchens will have an Expediter near the door to check the food before a server takes it.
· Kitchen Manager
Kitchen Managers tend to work behind-the-scenes. They check all ingredients are stocked and equipment is working. The managers do more paperwork as it’s the Head Chef’s job to oversee the employees in the kitchen.
The Kitchen Manager works with the Head Chef and the owner of the restaurant to keep the kitchen and the restaurant running efficiently.
· Commis Chef
This is normally an entry-level position when starting your career as a chef. The Commis Chef works alongside the other kitchen staff. Usually, they’ll assist the Chef de Partie with food preparation. This job allows you to see how a kitchen works first-hand and to work beside an experienced cook.
To get a job as a Commis Chef, you need to show some kitchen experience and a drive to work in the culinary industry. Working in a kitchen means long shifts but rewarding work.
· Pastry Chef (or Pâtissier)
Pastry Chefs usually attend culinary school to train their skills. They’re skilled in making desserts, pastries, bread and other types of baked goods. Pastry Chefs are valuable in the kitchen. You can find the Pâtissier in hotels, bakeries, cafes and restaurants.
Sauces are important when it comes to high-quality dining and the Saucier is responsible for making sure the sauces are always right. It’s a good first step up the ladder of the kitchen hierarchy with someone taking on more responsibility to show they’re trustworthy.
· Fish Cook (or Poissonier)
The Poissonier specialises in everything relating to fish. If a restaurant has a large section of fish dishes on the menu, the Fish Cook will be in charge of preparing and cooking fish, shellfish and their accompanying sauces.
· Vegetable Cook (or Entremetier)
The Vegetable Cook prepares all the vegetable dishes but they’ll also be assigned to prepare soups and egg dishes too.
· Meat Cook (or Rotisseur)
The Rotisseur works mainly with meats and are responsible for preparing the meats and cooking them.
· Pantry Chef (or Chef Garde Manger)
The Chef Garde Manger is responsible for all refrigerated ingredients and dishes. In large restaurants, their huge fridges need to have a chef in charge to check all food is fresh and monitor stock levels.
How to Hire a Chef
- Hire a Chef for Your Restaurant
Does your growing business need a chef? If it’s time to expand your menu, roll out new recipes, or bring in a new leader to organize your kitchen’s workflow and cooking processes, consider hiring a chef who is passionate about creating a dining experience customized to your business’s needs and vision.
Understanding the steps behind hiring a chef, including data about candidates looking for chef jobs, salaries and key terms to include in your job description, can help you stand out from the competition to reach and attract qualified candidates. Here are five tips for hiring the perfect chef without getting your fingers burned.
1. Know Who You’re Looking For
Knowing who you want to hire is the most obvious starting point. If you’re receiving applications from Le Cordon Bleu graduates when you’re running a backyard rib shack, then you’re wasting everyone’s time, so be specific about the type of candidates you’re looking for. Additionally, consider the personal qualities that will help your chef thrive in a high-pressure kitchen environment, such as:
- Leadership skills — the chef is in charge of the entire kitchen so he or she needs to be able to motivate and manage people
- An even temperament
- An eye for quality and high standards of customer service
- Time management skills
- Attention to detail
2. Consider the Hiring Options
You have a number of options for sourcing quality candidates: using a recruiting agency, posting a job ad, word-of-mouth advertising or hiring internally. Each approach has its pros and cons but none are particularly quick.
3. Check for Commitment
The restaurant industry is notorious for having high staff turnover. Unless you’re opening a seasonal pop up, it’s important to choose candidates who have a track record of stability — meaning they have stuck with their current position for at least a year. Less time than that, and there’s no record of how well the chef managed the seasonal ups and downs of a restaurant.
4. Taste Their Food
There’s no point hiring a chef who looks great on paper but doesn’t know his dill from his dijon. Before you make any decisions, have your candidates design the sort of menu your customers will be eating every day to a strict budget. Then, have them cook for you. This is a good opportunity to talk through the chef’s ideas and figure out if he has the common sense to control costs while delivering a quality dish. Plus, there’s no substitute for tasting the product.
5. Contact Their References
At the minimum, you should be calling the candidate’s references and checking if he or she is punctual, effective, honest and focused. If you’ve identified a weak spot in the candidate’s profile — for example, they’re weak in supervising — be sure to ask their references about it. A good question to ask is, “Would you rehire this person for a new position?”
¨ Hire Your Personal Chef
One of the most daunting daily milestones busy singles, couples, families and on-the-go people face is figuring out what’s for dinner. We recognize that deciding where and what to eat, while trying to be health conscious, is an issue for everyone struggling to maintain busy schedules.
By educating yourself about personal chef services, you will understand your options and can make informed decisions, knowing that you have done your research and found the best possible arrangement for your needs and lifestyle.
Create a bulleted lists of traits the chef you hire must have and what specific requirements they’ll need to fulfill. Only you know exactly what you need, and this is your opportunity to specifically spell that out. Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, it will be that much easier to add them to your job listing to hire a personal chef.
- What kind of service are you looking for a one-time hire or a long-term agreement?
- Do you have specific health and nutritional goals or expectations?
- Will the chef need to provide recipes in advance to choose from?
- Will the chef need to handle the grocery shopping?
- How open to accommodating for a variety of dietary restrictions should the chef be?
- Will the chef take care of cleanup?
- How much time will the chef need to set aside to execute your needs?
What kitchen tools will you have available to the chef?
Good food quality is amongst the biggest reasons why people go to restaurants, so it’s important that you find chefs that can cook consistently delicious meals. Chefs often have responsibilities that go beyond cooking tasty dishes, so when hiring chefs, you should consider other responsibilities that they’ll need to handle. If a chef can cook well, but can’t do so while fulfilling other expectations, they may not be a good fit.
When it comes to parties and events, it’s safe to say that the food is often the center point of the entire night. After planning an entire event, the last thing you want to have to focus on is cooking a top-notch meal for your attendees. It’s for this reason that hiring chefs for significant events has become so popular!