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 Kind of Chef Do You Need
There are several kinds of chefs and cooks in most kitchens. Before you hire a chef, make sure you are familiar with the right position for which to hire.
An executive chef, also known as a chef de cuisine, is the big boss of the kitchen. You will typically hire an executive chef for a large restaurant or a chain of restaurants.
An executive chef will have formal culinary training. Instead of spending much time in the kitchen, an executive chef is more of a manager role.
An executive chef will oversee the overall quality in the kitchens to make sure all is up to par.
The sous chef will be senior to everyone in the kitchen besides an executive chef. With more of a presence within the kitchen, a sous chef will likely serve as the hands-on manager of the kitchen team from day-to-day.
Along with cooking, the sous chef will ensure the quality of the food and plating. The sous chef will also manage the kitchen staff. This includes making schedules, maintaining inventory, hiring new staff and fixing any appliances. The sous chef is arguable the most important job in the kitchen.
The line cook is an integral part of a fast-paced kitchen. A line cook works alongside the rest of the kitchen expediting processes.
A line cook’s responsibilities will vary, depending on the kitchen. A line cook may cut vegetables for hours during a dinner service while another line cook spends the entirety of the evening carefully plating dishes.
Line cooks are an integral component of a fast-paced, high volume kitchen.
A pastry chef is responsible for the best part of dinner: dessert.
Depending on the menu at a certain restaurant, the pastry chef could be one of the big bosses in the kitchen. Requiring extensive technical culinary training, a pastry chef is one of the hardest kitchen jobs to fill.
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.
- 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
- 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
Traits of a Great Chef
We have all seen a clip from Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon Ramsay is flying off the chain, assaulting everyone in his wake with f-bombs. While this is the television gold, this is not a great chef.
A chef will, indeed, need to be stern and communicative. However, nobody wants to come into work to be relentlessly berated. A great chef will command respect, not fear, from staff.
Instead of hiring the television-friendly hothead, you will want to hire a chef with an even temperament. Things go wrong in kitchens quite frequently. A chef who can react sensibly and quickly enact a solution will keep a kitchen running more smoothly than a dictator.
Another trait of a great chef is an attention to detail. This includes the ability to constantly recognize quality, both in staff and in food. A chef with a great attention to detail will not only produce delicious fresh food, they will also likely keep operating costs down.
A chef with a great attention to detail will notice the freshness of incoming produce, the quality of food plating, the efficiency of a certain staff member and any other number of small details that make a kitchen great.
Writing Your Chef Job Post
Now that you have considered what type of chef you need to hire, you will want to get to writing that post. As usual, there are four very important components to include in your chef job post.
1. The Title
Remember how we talked about what kind of chef you want to hire?
Make sure to specify this in the title. Many hiring managers will stop there and just list their job opening as “Chef” or “Line Cook”. The title is the first and most important place for your job to stand out. Consider spicing up your title to entice an applicant.
- Line Cook Needed - Benefits and Competitive Wage
- Pastry Chef Needed for Busy Michelin Star Restaurant
- Executive Chef for Growing Restaurant
2. The Introduction
The introduction is a place for you to introduce your restaurant, its mission and what you are looking for in a chef. These brief 1-3 sentences will summarize what an applicant can expect from the job and the company.
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3. The Responsibilities
The responsibilities section, as we summarized earlier, will give the candidate a clear idea of what is to be expected on a daily basis in this open chef position.
Because the responsibilities section can tend to be long, make sure to use bullets in your formatting. No applicant wants to sift through a dense block of text. A typical applicant will click on the next job listing instead.
- 6 months experience as a Line Cook preferred.
- Ability to work positively in a fast-paced environment.
- Ability to work effectively within a team.
- Must be able to work quickly in a confined area and stand for extended periods of time.
- Basic English reading and communication skills.
- Strong attention to detail.
- Knowledge of weights, measurements, volume and cooking procedures.
- Ability to lift up to 50 lbs. as needed.
- Ability to work in elevated temperatures.
- Continuous use of hands and arms.
- Continuous bending, reaching and twisting.
4. The “How to Apply” Section
The “How to Apply” section will give your chef candidates the details needed to apply to your kitchen job. While many recruiting and job posting sites have bright “How to Apply” or “Apply Here” buttons, this could be a place to test your future chef’s attention to detail.
Once your job post is written, there are tons of ways to optimize your job post so that your job listing ranks highly in search to reach the best applicants.
Where to Post Your Chef Job
Once you have written and optimized your chef job posting, you will want to get as many eyes on it as humanly possible.
One way to do get many eyes (and clicks) to your cook job posting is to post it to one of the big job boards, like Monster, Indeed or Craigslist.
However, if you want the best and most experienced chefs, you will want to post specifically to restaurant job boards.
Here are a few of our favorite places to hire a chef:
- Restaurant Jobs at Proven
- Restaurant Careers
- Hospitality Online
How to Keep A Chef
Once you have hired your new dream chef, you will want to make sure to keep him/her onboard. Be as communicative as possible in the first few weeks. Chefs can tend to be passionate about their creativity in the kitchen. Before you embark on your partnership, make sure that your visions are aligned.
If you are just starting out with your restaurant, work alongside your chef to create a menu that reflects your vision as a restaurateur and your chef’s vision and expertise. Starting out collaboratively will establish a relationship built on trust and communication.
Furthermore, be available, especially in the beginning, to field and problems that may arise. The success of a kitchen (and of the restaurant it is serving) will rely greatly on a happy and fulfilled chef.
Finally, once you have your executive chef or chef de cuisine hired, make sure you listen to their staffing needs. Whether you are opening a brand new restaurant or replacing a chef, you will want to have the right line cooks, expeditors, pastry chefs and whatever other staff needed to make the kitchen run smoothly (while remaining profitable!)