Interview Questions for a Line Cook Candidates (Examples)
How to Conduct an Interview at Your Restaurant
Finding the right person for your restaurant can be challenging, nevermind navigating the hiring process. With late night hours, scheduling, and retail space, running a business that takes considerable manpower is exhausting and the last thing you want to do is find new staff in an industry that tends to have higher-than-average turnover.
But, keep in mind that once you have a process in place the hiring process can pay dividends in the long-run with a line cook that is well-trained, conscientious, and reliable, as well as passionate about food. Having a standout interview, which means doing your part on your end, and having a candidate that can confidently and readily answer your restaurant interview questions is a recipe for success.
So you don’t miss a step, here is a step-by-step template to making sure that you have done your due diligence in hiring the right line cook for your restaurant.
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Line Cook Interview Tips
You want to begin by making sure the candidate knows who you are within the restaurant. Provide a short biography of your relationship and role in the restaurant. Are you the owner? Are there other owners? How did the restaurant get started? What’s your philosophy on hospitality?
Make sure whomever you interview leaves with an understanding of the values and mission of the restaurant. This will also assist you in choosing the right candidate because you’re managing expectations of the job and about the business, and then the candidate can think clearly about whether this is right for them.
Explain the Need for the Role
Once you have provided all the necessary background and contextual information it’s time to dive into the details. While some people may think being a line cook at a restaurant is self-explanatory, that is not the case. Is the line expected to interact directly with management? Is there a chef’s table option and, if so, does the line cook help with that in any way? What is the hierarchy of the kitchen and how many people are they overseeing?
Some details on exactly what the job functions and expectations are set you and the candidate up for success because it establishes the ground rules from the onset. When you do this, it’s a great time to learn and ask questions about the candidate's background and past experiences. When you’re sharing information, ask questions along the way, and bring up any questions you might have from their resume.
For example, you might want to decide ahead of time if prior experience working as a line cook is a requirement for the position or if having relevant experience as a busser or barback is enough. You can also ask about their knowledge of food safety regulations and precautions and food trends, which will give you a better picture of their maturity and how considerate they are about the operations of the restaurant.
Establish Job Requirements
This is also the time to get tactical and understand what their working availability is as well as their preferences. Are they working anywhere else? Making sure you understand how much you and the candidate expect him or her to be working is a great first step in aligning expectations.
It’s also important to be clear about the pace of the restaurant. Is it a fast-paced establishment with tables bustling throughout the day? Are there lulls? All of this information will be helpful for both the candidate and your evaluation of the candidates.
Even though you’re looking for a line cook specific to your restaurant, it is still important to evaluate past training. Consider asking how they learned on the job or how they were trained.
Of course, while having access to training and learning opportunities in the past is extremely helpful, what ultimately matters when hiring for your restaurant is making sure they are passionate about the industry in general, and that food service and interacting with others in the kitchen about food service and hospitality is something they enjoy and are genuinely curious about.
Make sure to close each interview by thanking them for their time and talking about next steps. If you can, let them know when you are planning to make a hiring decision, when you would expect that person to start, as well as any other important information such as the hourly rate and how many candidates you hope to hire overall.
Taking the time to do this shows them that you are a considerate staff member and it demonstrates the level of professionalism of your restaurant.
Having trouble thinking of specific questions? Let’s help you get started. Here are ten questions to consider when hiring your next line, as well as ten ideal answers to those questions to help you think about what you need for your future role.
Interview Questions Template
Line Cook Interview Questions
How do you see your role as a line cook in terms of the customer experience?
I see my role as a line cook as one that sets up the kitchen for success. I make sure everything is prepped, I move the process along, and I set the stage for the chef to put the finishing touches and oversee the quality of the meal as a whole.
I see myself as responsibility of components of that experience and to be able to prepare them consistently and reliably to help the more senior kitchen staff do their jobs.
How do you understand the kitchen hierarchy?
The line cook is kind of like an assistant or intern and it’s our job, once trained, to make sure the kitchen is as clean as possible, especially during times of rush or when the chefs are in the weeds.
While a line cook is a junior position, it’s a great place to get the foundation of working in a kitchen, observe, and if you’re lucky, learn directly from very talented people.
What makes you stay at one restaurant as a line cool long-term versus another restaurant?
Finding a reliable line cook can be difficult and often restaurants will offer to hire you for a slight raise over where you’re currently working, like an additional dollar an hour.
While this can be tempting, and it is important to be fairly paid, a line cook with passion for the food industry will care most about mentorship, exposure, and working with other talented people. So for me, I am looking for a good work environment, I am looking to learn from talented chefs
How do you deal with criticism or conflict in the kitchen?
Chefs often have big personalities, so it is important to stay calm and remember that what they are really concerned with is providing the best outcome possible for customers. It’s also important to stay humble and take an objective look at your work and whether there’s truth in the criticism you receive.
When a chef has a lot of experience and gets upset over something you’ve done or how you’ve prepared something, and there’s a good working relationship, it’s important to learn from what they are saying.
You can learn so much from an experienced chef if you are willing to pay attention. That being said, it’s also important to set boundaries and not withstand verbal abuse or a toxic work environment.
What is your philosophy on food safety and cleanliness?
As a line cook the one thing you can never, ever compromise is food freshness, cleanliness, and safety. Working in a kitchen is inherently dangerous. There are always hot things, open flames, sharp objects and it is so important to mitigate those risks, not just for yourself but for everyone who works with you.
It starts with the basics like clean prep stations, non-slip shoes, hair tied up, sharp knives etc. Additionally, you are responsible for serving people fresh food that will not make them sick. This means keeping a very clean walk-in and being diligent about labeling your food and paying careful attention to how food is taken out, how it is handled, and that you are properly trained and certified in food safety regulations.
There’s nothing that can kill the reputation of a restaurant faster than food poisoning, food contamination, infestation or citations from health inspectors.
What do you think are essential skills of line cooks?
I think having safe and fast-paced knife skills is very important, as well as other fundamentals like being able to perfectly fry an egg to order, cook meat to appropriate temperature, and prepare cuts of proteins like fish, particularly at seafood restaurants.
Additionally, being able to neatly store food properly so it keeps as long as possible and with proper handling. All of these things lend themselves to less food waste as well as a cleaner and safer kitchen and better food products.
What is something challenging about food you feel especially passionate about as a line cook?
As most of us know, being a line cook you are at the bottom of the totem pole for the kitchen. It pays less than everyone else, but you’re working just as long hours and have constant demands.
I think that to make it through this stage, be humble enough to learn and improve, and eventually move to the next level you need a passion for food, a lot of energy, and a certain level of perfectionism that makes you want to prepare everything perfectly.
What made you want to apply to this restaurant?
(In this situation look for evidence that they know who the kitchen staff is, understand the mission or purpose of the restaurant, and have spent time looking at the menu - the more specific and prepared they are, the better.)
What is your favorite thing to cook and why?
As a line cook, anytime I get to work on something more nuanced and complex, I’m really excited. I had the experience of working with a saucier for instance, as well as assisting a patisserie chef.
Both of those instances I was able to work with products that were more complex, where I was able to develop my own palette, and think like a chef. I love opportunities like that.
What are your long-term career goals and how does working as a server help you achieve them?
My long term career goal is to rise through the ranks of a restaurant and become a chef, or eventually go to culinary school and become a chef. If I ever tire of working in a kitchen, I’m also very interested in the business side of restaurant and hospitality and would love to explore front-of-house positions within a restaurant as well to learn a little bit about everything.
While hiring new staff always takes time and energy, make sure to remember that in the long-run who you hire will represent your business to your customers. If you make the effort to hire the right candidates, who are a good fit for the position, you will retain wonderful staff who like their jobs, and have to do less hiring. It’s more up-front work but the payoff is a win-win for everyone.
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