How to Hire a Chef
Hiring the right chef requires finding a candidate with a combination of cooking, people, and business skills, as well as a passion for creating a place your customers will love. But where do you start?
A qualified chef will not only serve up crowd-pleasing food, but also create menus, oversee your kitchen, lead a team, manage inventory, and even contribute to business decisions. However, job responsibilities will vary depending on the type of chef you need. The most common chef positions found in the kitchen hierarchy include:
Executive Chef: An executive chef is the leader of your kitchen and guides day-to-day operations of your foodservice facility. Also known as a “Chef de Cuisine,” an executive chef typically possesses formal culinary training and certifications, while many focus on certain type of cuisine.
Sous Chef: A sous chef works under the executive chef (“sous” is French for “under”) and holds a more hands-on role in the kitchen. While a sous chef may take on managerial and team-leading responsibilities, this position involves cooking, plating, and ensuring high-quality dishes.
Line Cook: A Line Cook is below the executive chef and sous chef, but plays one of the most critical roles in the kitchen: prepping, cutting, cooking, frying, plating food – fast. Line cooks may also be called station chefs because restaurants often assign each line cook to a different responsibility (like chopping vegetables) per shift.
Other types of chefs and popular culinary career titles include personal chefs, private chefs, signature chefs, sushi chefs, pastry chefs, banquet chefs, head chefs, and deputy chefs, but one thing remains certain: Hiring a chef is not a quest you can approach by trial and error.
Frequent chef changes can hurt the reputation and bottom line of any restaurant or foodservice organization – you need to recruit and retain someone who will grow your organization, build your brand, and keep your customers coming back for more.
Bringing the right culinary expert aboard requires extra attention to creating a compelling chef job description, asking the right chef interview questions, offering competitive pay, and more. This guide will help you hire a chef for your restaurant, catering business, hotel, facility or even private household or establishment.
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Qualifications to Look for When Hiring a Chef
Finding the perfect chef starts with considering candidates’ food-specific skills. Begin by reviewing chef resumes: Have they been professionally trained, or have they learned their skills on the jobs? Do they have experience with the cuisine(s) your restaurant serves? Have they developed the ability to work in your restaurant’s service-style?
While you may prefer hiring a chef who has completed culinary school, that’s not always necessary. Many chefs work their way through the kitchen ranks, learning on the job, so look at candidates’ years of experience when vetting resumes. In lieu of formal schooling, consider chefs who’ve obtained culinary credentials, such as certifications from the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
Qualifications & Skills for a Chef
The following are the most required or desired skills for Executive Chefs on iHireChefs:
Education & Experience
Executive Chefs offer the following educational background and years of experience:
Licensing and Certifications
Executive Chef positions frequently require or prefer the following credentials:
What’s a Fair Chef Salary?
Hiring the right chef means offering competitive pay. So, what’s a fair chef salary? The median annual salary for U.S. chefs hovers around $48,500. However, executive chefs can reel in as much as $82,000 a year on the high end, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas. For location-specific salary details, visit our free Salary Research Tool.
Sample Chef Job Description
While it’s possible to find a skilled chef through referrals, via networking, or by promoting from within, you’ll likely need a compelling job posting to attract the right talent on the online recruitment platform of your choosing. As with any job posting, your ad needs a short title, details about the role, job responsibilities and qualifications, a bit about your company culture and benefits, and a strong call to action.
Here’s a sample chef job description to get you started:
Restaurant ABC is seeking a seasoned Executive Chef to join our team of culinary professionals at our fine-dining facility in Baltimore, Maryland. You will lead our fast-paced kitchen while crafting top-quality, customer-pleasing dishes for our patrons. As our Executive Chef, you will also be responsible for planning and creating our menu, managing staff, keeping inventory, and ensuring our facility operates according to the highest standards of culinary excellence and customer service.
- Overseeing kitchen operations
- Crafting high-quality, delicious cuisine
- Leading, managing, and training a team of 15 kitchen staff
- Creating and planning menus with cost in mind
- Ensuring food safety and sanitation standards are followed
- Maintaining and replenishing inventory
- Assisting in business development and brand growth
Requirements & Qualifications:
- Culinary degree preferred
- Minimum 5 years of experience in culinary arts
- Portfolio of signature and mastered dishes
- Knowledge of food sanitation and safety
- Proven leadership, customer service, and organization skills
- Strong work ethic and desire to grow professionally
Hiring on iHireChefs? We’ll walk you through the process of creating an enticing chef job ad with our step-by-step Job Ad Builder tool.
Chef Interview Questions
What are the best chef interview questions? When interviewing candidates for your culinary position, asking these questions (in addition to your standard job interview questions like, What are your strengths and weaknesses?) will help ensure your new hire meets your requirements.
- What type of culinary background, experience, certifications, and training do you possess?
- How do you handle stressful situations? Give an example of how you performed under pressure in a previous role.
- How do you build morale and maintain a solid team in the kitchen?
- How would your teammates describe your management style?
- How do you keep yourself organized in the kitchen?
- What dish, recipe, or type of cuisine do you excel at and/or enjoy creating the most?
- Talk about a time you created or improved a specific menu or menu item.
- What would you do if a customer complained about their meal or sent it back?
- How do you stay current with today’s evolving culinary industry trends?
Additional Tips for How to Hire a Chef
- Request to see the candidate’s portfolio of signature recipes.
- Require top runners to prepare a sample dish a la “Top Chef.”
- Offer an incentive, such as a sign-on bonus, to lure talent in a competitive market.
- Don’t skip out on calling candidate references.
- Focus on applicant soft skills – like organization, communication, leadership – cooking isn’t the only requirement for a successful chef.
Where to Hire a Chef
Start your search for qualified talent on iHireChefs.