How to Find a Chef for Your Restaurant
Hiring a chef is one of the largest challenges for a restaurateur. Finding a capable, competent, and hardworking chef for your restaurant can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Despite the challenges, hiring the right chef is a vital part of your business's ability to succeed. On any given day, this employee will do more than prepare food. A chef trains new staff, oversees cooking processes, develops menus, and provides input in marketing decisions affecting the restaurant. In short, the chef provides leadership and direction in a restaurant.
Who should you hire?
The first step in finding a chef to hire is knowing who you are looking for. Start by choosing the specific type of cuisine that will be prepared. This helps match their capabilities to your needs. For example, a Brazilian steakhouse would have little need for someone trained in Mediterranean cuisine. If your restaurant is preparing multiple types of cuisine, then it will be necessary to clarify what type of food applicants will need to prepare.
While most people with a culinary degree should be able to prepare high quality food, not every one of them holds the leadership skills necessary to run a successful kitchen. Here are a number of qualities to look for when interviewing applicants.
- Even temperament: Restaurants are going to have days when everything goes wrong. How your chef reacts in these scenarios will play a part in how the rest of the staff responds. Having someone who is calm and collected under pressure will help keep your kitchen running smoothly on high-stress days.
- Ability to train staff: Experienced and qualified chefs should also be good educators and trainers. They are responsible for showing new hires the ropes. They know how to use all the restaurant's equipment, and can teach a new employee how to properly use this equipment as well.
- Eye for quality: Chefs set the standard in a restaurant kitchen. Having someone who is willing and able to do whatever is necessary to complete the job will have a trickle down effect on the staff below them. Along these lines, hire a chef that expects only the best food going out the door. Regardless of how great the ambiance, presentation, and atmosphere, if the food is not prepared properly, the customer will have a negative impression of your restaurant.
- Attention to detail: On top of everything else, they are responsible for being detail oriented. They write specials, contribute to menus, and need to read and order inventory correctly. Imagine the frustration of a restaurant owner who discovers their chef over ordered perishable ingredients because he or she didn't correctly read the inventory.
- Computer skills: Going hand in hand with attention to detail, chefs must have good computer skills. Proficiency in Excel spreadsheets will allow them to cost recipes and check menu profits. Typing skills, and an understanding of Word documents, will allow them to create new menu layouts. Also, knowing how to use social media would enable them to become a valuable part of the marketing process for a restaurant.
- Experience and shared philosophy: Having someone who graduated from a reputable culinary school or has many years of experience is fantastic! However, a chef should have similar views as the owner on what qualifies as good customer service. Having a chef who has high standards in customer service, and the experience in culinary excellence to back it up, will help create a superb dining experience for your guests.
Where can you find your new chef?
First and foremost, there are a few risks associated with hiring a chef for your restaurant. Namely, chefs may decide to quit if they find out that you are actively trying to replace them. Having a chef suddenly leave can cause a restaurant’s food quality and preparation speed to rapidly deteriorate.”
Having them suddenly leave can cause a restaurant's food quality and preparation speed to rapidly deteriorate. Also, your competitors may capture more patrons by taking advantage of the fact that you are without your top employee. Should you find yourself in this position, you will want to find a replacement quickly. Poor food quality and long waits that afflict restaurants are costly to the bottom line. To help avoid being in this situation, use one of the following options:
- Use a recruiting agency. Agencies are great at finding replacements discreetly. This way, your current chef and competition won't catch wind of the fact that you are looking to hire. As an added bonus, many recruiting agencies do not collect payment until a replacement is found and hired.
- Hire internally. Oftentimes, sous chefs have the necessary degrees and are familiar with all the tasks of being a chef. As an added benefit, hiring within often boosts company morale because of two reasons. First, employees like the feeling of upward mobility and having room for growth. Secondly, hiring a known person within the company lessens the fear of having a new boss.
- Use word of mouth advertising. Talk to your suppliers; they may know someone who is looking for a change. While this certainly isn't discreet, word of mouth can be one of the best ways to hire a chef.
- Post an ad online. Job posting websites are great for tossing a wide net to try and catch potential applicants. Should you still want to keep it quiet that you are looking to hire, post anonymous job postings called "blind ads." By posting a blind ad you gain the advantage of fishing in the large pool of applicants without alerting current staff or competition.
- Retain who you have. Lastly, if you are able to do so, retain your current chef! A lot of time and effort goes into hiring a chef. Taking strides to show appreciation, giving incentives, or promoting your chef's name can go a long way in keeping that valuable employee on your payroll. By retaining your chef, it is possible to avoid the headaches and costs of trying to hire and train a replacement.