How to Successfully Interview an Executive Chef

It goes without saying that your executive chef must be a master at running an efficient kitchen. But what really separates a chef from a cook is the ability to help turn your restaurant into a strong brand that makes a consistent profit.

When interviewing executive chef candidates, start by evaluating their culinary skills, then hone in on their management expertise. Throughout the process, look for an individual who is:

  • Passionate about what they do.
  • Business minded.
  • A creative and innovative culinary professional
  • A strong leader.

And, as the head of your kitchen, your chef needs to fit in with the dynamics of your company, the people who work there, the type of food you serve, and the clientele.

Culinary Skills

Your chef needs to develop menus that draw customers while keeping costs at levels that create profit.

  • Ask where they learned to cook. Be sure they attended a reputable culinary school and know how to prepare foods that fit your business concept.
  • Review their work history. Check references to ensure they can handle the job, including rush orders, high-volume “rush” times, and unexpected issues which inevitably will occur.
  • Look for innovation. Discuss any original recipes they’ve created or awards won. Ask about their cooking philosophy, their thought process in creating dishes, their personal goals, and what their menu inspirations are and why.

Management Experience

Once you know a candidate has the right technical background, find out how they’ve applied their skills in a business environment. Ask about:

  • Their experience in purchasing inventory, creating menus to develop a brand, and managing related food costs.
  • How they’ve encouraged up-selling and implemented daily specials.
  • Their success in minimizing theft and spoilage.
  • Their knowledge of health department rules and practices to observe them.
  • How they will ensure smooth kitchen operations seven days a week, even when they are off or on vacation.

Include key members of your management team in this part of the interview and get their feedback afterwards.

Menu Creativity

Ask candidates what they think of your menu and how they might improve it. Expand the discussion to garner their ideas on advertising, promotion and pricing.

  • Take a kitchen tour. If a candidate has researched your restaurant and provided helpful ideas to enhance your brand, ask for their thoughts on your kitchen set-up, equipment, walk-ins, storage areas and other operational aspects.
  • Find out what their favorite cuisine is. And, ask for an example of a springtime or holiday menu. Look for the use of appropriate in-season ingredients.

Last But Not Least: A Cooking Demo

Finally, have your candidates prepare a dish or two from your current menu, a dish that complements your menu, or one or two dishes from a new menu they would suggest as part of a rebranding. Invite two or more staff members to try the dishes with you to get additional feedback. And, ask the candidates what they think the approximate food costs of each dish are and what menu price they would set for them.

For additional resources on successful hiring for your restaurant, read our related posts or contact the team at Horizons Hospitality today. As one of the top restaurant recruiters in the country, we have the resources and experience to help you land top talent today.


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