Chef standing in kitchen

What Is a Culinary Portfolio?

In the past, most culinary professionals only had to worry about putting together a basic resume that listed where they’ve worked along with a cover letter explaining why they were the best fit for a particular job. The employment market has changed, however, and chefs who are looking for work nowadays need a bit more in their arsenal to wow restaurant owners and show potential employers what they have to offer in the kitchen. Portfolios have been a common job search element for those in more creative fields such as architects or graphic designers for many years, but this concept is not widespread among chefs. Yet.

The fact of the matter is an expert culinary portfolio that looks professional and well done could be just the thing to separate an ambitious chef from the competition. A resume and cover letter can only convey so much. Plus, these materials are constrained by the length that is expected as well as the details that they must (and must not) provide. There is so much more leeway offered by a culinary portfolio, and a chef is free to express their personality a bit more as they put it together. It can be used to complement a resume and cover letter, or a culinary portfolio can be created as something to leave behind with new contacts or after visits with potential employers. Just like a resume must include certain key details, though, successful culinary portfolios will inevitably have a few common components. Read on to find out about seven critical areas that should be covered.


1. “About Me” Page

Use this area of the portfolio to tell your story, the journey you’ve taken, and the stops along the way that have contributed to your culinary knowledge and made you the chef you are today. Mention the different styles and types of cuisine that you’re familiar with or specialize in. Be sure to include a current professional photo along with your contact information.


2. Work History

After you’ve covered the more personal and general version of your culinary biography in the “About Me” page, you need to supply details of your professional story. The work history doesn’t need to be overly fancy or long – just a brief synopsis of the places you’ve worked (along with dates of employment), the positions you’ve held, and straightforward information on your duties as well as any specific achievements you wish to include.


Photo of beautiful dish


3. Food Photos

Some of the most critical elements of an effective culinary portfolio are the high-quality pictures that promote your technical abilities by displaying the types of dishes you can produce. Incorporating visuals to give the reader further insight into your skills is the primary purpose of compiling a portfolio. Without sharp photographs of attractive culinary creations, your portfolio has no point, like a kitchen without an oven.


4. Sample Menus & Recipes

Building off of the photos you’ve provided of your mouth-watering dishes, including sample menus along with some recipes you’ve developed will show the reader that you are well rounded and have the strategic vision necessary to run a restaurant or catering operation. If you’re worried about giving too much away with your sample recipes, feel free to obscure key information so that the dishes can’t be replicated without your involvement.


5. List of Awards & Accolades

Have you been recognized for excellence by previous employers or industry organizations? Did you participate in cooking competitions and earn gold, silver, or bronze medals? If the answer is yes, then you need to highlight these honors in your portfolio. As a rule of thumb, the more prestigious the awards, the closer to the front of the folder they should go.


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6. Breakdown of Education & Professional Development/Credentials

Where did you learn how to run a kitchen or cook a soufflé? Do you hold an active ServSafe certification? These may not be exciting details, but this information is necessary because potential employers want a thorough examination of your qualifications.


7. Media Recognition

This area consists of write-ups in magazines and other publications: profiles, interviews, restaurant reviews, etc. If you’ve appeared on television or in print, you need to let the reader know. You may not be a celebrity chef like Emeril or Gordon Ramsay, but positive reviews of your food will go a long way in convincing potential employers that you’re the right person for their kitchen.


Professional portfolio


A special note on references, digital portfolios, and the use of social media:

When it comes to references, tread lightly. The same reasons that we no longer include references on resumes apply to portfolios as well: you don’t want to have the personal information of your contacts in the hands of anyone and everyone. You also don’t want a prospective employer calling one of your references out of the blue. For this reason, keep your references handy but separate from your portfolio. In addition to the physical portfolio that you can hand to restaurant owners and hiring managers, create a digital version that you can direct people to visit at their convenience. The added bonus of having this secondary portfolio available on the internet is that you can then utilize social media to promote your skills and aid in your job search.

By Freddie Rohner, iHire | May 15, 2015
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