How to Hire a Restaurant Chef

Finding the right chef for your restaurant — whether you’re opening a new concept or filling a vacant seat — is easier said than done.

Let’s say you’re opening a new restaurant. Or maybe you’ve already been there. You’ve done your research on the market and local competition. You’ve found the perfect location. You’ve got the liquor licence. The concept is strong and ready to take off. Everything seems to be coming together.

It’s time to hire a chef to bring your culinary vision to life.

Well, finding the right chef for your restaurant — whether you’re opening a new concept or replacing a chef at your existing business — is easier said than done.

The Rising Demand for Restaurant Chefs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 139,000 chefs and head cooks employed in the restaurant industry in the United States in 2018. At the same time, there were 660,755 restaurants in the U.S. in Spring of 2018.

With that many available jobs, the competition and demand for chefs and head cooks is heating up. But that doesn’t mean you should hire the first person you find to fill the role.

The same could be said about hiring for any job in your restaurant — no chef is created equal. Every chef you encounter brings something different to the table, from personality and technical skills to work ethic and artistic ability. There are, though, definite similarities to look out for when evaluating candidates.

And one thing’s for sure: The kitchen is a fast-paced, high-stress, hot, sweaty, and dangerous work environment. Whoever you choose to be your restaurant chef needs to be able to withstand the heat. Heh.

In this article, we’ll cover the steps to hiring a restaurant chef, including necessary skills and responsibilities, how to write a chef job description, chef interview questions to ask, and more.

Skills and Responsibilities of a Restaurant Chef

As the person in charge of what (and who) comes in and out of your kitchen, your chef holds the keys to your restaurant’s reputation. They conceptualize and create your restaurant’s menu, oversee daily food prep, and direct your back-of-house team. It’s a hefty role.

With this level of responsibility, you need someone with experience and vision. Most chef positions require five-plus years of experience. Some of the ideal traits of a restaurant chef include familiarity with flavors and ingredients, passion and imagination, strong management skills, and the ability to merge creativity with math and data.

A restaurant chef needs to merge these traits with an understanding of how ingredients relate to one another and the ability to create recipes that not only capture the minds and taste buds of guests but also keep your budget in check.

Here are some high-level versions of the responsibilities you might find on a restaurant chef job description:

  • Develop new recipes
  • Plan menus
  • Train and lead back-of-house staff
  • Manage inventory
  • Ensure quality control
  • Monitor safety standards

Being a chef is a balancing act between creative ability and managerial expertise. We’re talking about someone who’s business-minded but can come up with unique seasonal specials and respond to the chaos of the kitchen on the fly.

Keep that balance in mind when evaluating the right chef for your restaurant.

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