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How to Hire a Chef for a Restaurant

Most chefs wouldn’t mind us saying they’re interesting people. Some characteristics that would be red flags in other professions are the signs of great chefs.

Some restaurants are entirely chef-driven. The concept grows from the individual rather than the brand. If you can hone the talents of an eccentric individual, they can define the very nature of your restaurant and how successful it can become.

However, not all restaurant owners are so lucky to have someone like this at their disposal, which is where recruitment comes in.

What kind of chef do you want?

While there are different types of sous, commis, pastry and station chefs that you need to look for when hiring restaurant staff, the executive (or head) chef is the most crucial.

There’s no right or wrong way to hire a chef and you should use all the channels at your disposal to see who’s available.

Specialist recruitment agencies
Industry and local job boards
Social media channels
Headhunters
Word of mouth referrals

When hiring a chef, make sure you have a job description, which is useful for both you and them to understand the various aspects of a role. Pay equal attention to the level of experience you’re after as well as the personal qualities you’re seeking.

There are pros and cons between picking an experienced chef versus a chef who has yet to prove their value. The most important thing is that you both share a vision for what your restaurant can become. Most of the day-to-day aspects can be ironed out, but if you have a fundamental difference in the type of restaurant you’re delivering, it can be tricky to overcome.

If you want your restaurant to become a firm family favorite with locals while your chef is dead-set on constant innovation and experimental dishes, it may be difficult to come to a compromise.

Core attributes

The right head chef is far more than just a cook, and you’ll find that some of the best barely go near an oven, relying on a well-drilled team to execute their vision.

When hiring a chef, there are various things to look out for from a skills perspective, whether that’s via the traditional route of asking them questions in a job interview or watching them in action during a trial shift.

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Leadership skills. The rest of the kitchen needs to learn from them so the ability to earn respect and pass on skills is essential.

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In a sometimes volatile environment, an even temperament is vital. Passion is one thing, but it needs to be controlled.

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Having a natural eye for quality, good attention to detail, and high standards of customer service will reflect well on your restaurant.

It’s a little harder to know how well a potential chef is going to perform in areas of budgeting, inventory management, and equipment maintenance, but it’s always worth asking about their experience in those areas so you know how much responsibility to hand over.

Give them what they want

Beyond the salary negotiation, there are various other elements chefs will want to know before joining a company, some of which are specific to the restaurant trade.

Menu oversight

It’s natural that a chef will want a lot of say in what they’re going to be producing, establishing chef specials as well as the core menu.

Time off

Experienced chefs will have been victim to unreasonably long working hours before, so will be wary of any contracts that don’t include adequate rest periods.

Shares in the company

If you’re just starting out and can’t afford a top-quality chef, they might take the opportunity to invest their time into your future vision.

Hiring ownership

The kitchen is their domain, and some will want to bring in a ready-made team they know and trust, while also having a veto over future hires.

If you’re setting out on your first venture, it’s tempting to give in to all these demands when you find a chef you admire, but be wary of handing over too much control. This is still your restaurant, not theirs.

You want to give your chef every opportunity to create a closely knit team. The right person at the top will help when hiring the rest of your restaurant staff and providing the right environment to keep them working effectively together for a long time to come.

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