Chefs are the lifeblood of your restaurant. You can have the best ingredients, ambiance and service, but if you don’t have a talented chef who can prepare the food properly, then you won’t have much of a business.
Talent is not always easy to spot, and selecting the right applicant can be a world of pain for restaurant operators. 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. If you need to find a chef on short notice, consider using Merlin.
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?”
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to hiring a new chef. Cooking skills are vital, but so are planning, consistency, cost control and customer service. Remember hiring a chef is one of the most important decisions you will make for your business.
Merlin is currently live in New York City and is available on iOS (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/merlin-job-search/id1224653168) and Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.merlinjobs.android).