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Getting a job as Chef

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I just got a phone call from an owner I had sent a resume to earlier this week. He wants me to come in Saturday to talk about things. He is looking for an executive chef to create an upscale comfort food menu. Should I go in with a proposed menu? Should I be ready for a tasting? Do I need to have an idea of salary requirements? I've never been any higher than Sous before, so any help would be great.
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post #2 of 13
I say you should always be ready to do a tasting on any chef interview, but you cant really prepare because you would be using whatever he made available to you. Also, I think that you couldnt really write a proposed menu because, although you have a general idea, youre not really sure what direction he wants to take things. If you have available to you any special sheets or menus that youve been involved in writing, I would bring them along just to have. As for salary, you must have some idea of how much you want to make, or what you think the job is worth. I will say though to remember that it is going to be your first head chef's job, so taking a salary that you might not think is high enough may be ok, if you can afford it, in order to take that extra step to be on your own. Remember that he is taking a risk on you too having never been a head chef, but then you can use this experience to command better money later down the line or for the next job.
post #3 of 13
If he said come in and talk about things then thats what it is..........Always be ready for anything, your a Chef thats what we do..............Bill
post #4 of 13
I concur. Show up in a nice shirt, maybe a tie if you think that the owner might expect it, and have a jacket, apron, and your most comfortable knives in the car, just in case.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #5 of 13
Yes. Actually you should come in with a printed list of proposed dishes; and a printed, edited version more like an actual menu. They should be held together in an inexpensive, plastic binder, and you should also bring two duplicate copies -- held together with paperclips -- along with some blank paper.

If he doesn't bring up the subject himself, ask him what he was thinking -- before handing him your work.

As soon as it's appropriate, tell him you've been thinking about his ideas since your first discussion and prepared "a little something." Hand him the binder, and be prepared to talk about any and all of the proposed dishes -- especially his; and about your decision making process in creating the menu.

If he wants to have a serious discussion, make notes on one of your paperclipped copies and blank paper.

Wear a tie, jacket and slacks.

Yes. You should also be ready for a "basket" test. Have your knife roll -- including tongs and spatulas, your jacket, work shoes, an apron (to protect your slacks) or a pair of cooking pants, and an appropriate cap in the car.

Your whites should either be new or very clean. Clean whites designate respect to the establishment and the craft. Stained whites -- not so much. By the way, many places expect their exec to dress well enough to walk into the dining room to schmooze the customers.

You don't need prestige cutlery, but make sure your knives are REALLY SHARP. I've known a few owners as friends and/or clients and none of them would hire an exec who wasn't sufficiently detail and quality oriented to keep his knives sharp.

If all the stuff stays in the car, you haven't lost anything. You'll be using all of them soon enough.

Yes. Bringing in appropriate salary expectations is part of being prepared.

You may be given a flat offer, with no real chance to negotiate -- other than by saying "yes" or "no." On the other hand, salary may be part of the discussion. If his offer is low, he's inviting negotiation.

People moving up have a tendency to undervalue their services. Don't negotiate against yourself. Make a realistic assessment of what an exec at a similar establishement should earn, add 10% negotiation wiggle room, and ask for their sum, rounded off to a "round number," as your opening position. Don't think only of the next few weeks. Don't accept a salary package too low for the position. Even if you think you can "live with it," it's about respect.

If the owner wants to negotiate, be respectful but firm. You can give up the 10%, and perhaps even a little more, gracefully. If he persists in lowballing, tell him you're unprepared to go below a realistic salary figure; but that you will accept a one month trial period at his proposed salary, as long as he'll pay you an agreed upon higher salary thereafter, and make up half the difference for the trial period. If you go this way, don't offer to renegotiate after the trial period, have a definite figure.

Weird numbers often work very well in negotiation. For some reason, people see "$70,000" as an invitation to further negotiation, but "$68,750" as a serious bottom line.

Remember what I said about negotiating against yourself. Don't offer the trial period unless and until the owner seems stuck at a figure to low for the position.

A good negotiation is win-win.

In WRITING.

Best of luck,
BDL
________________________
Ex owner/operator Predominantly French catering; ex cook at a couple of decent joints
post #6 of 13
For me, I'd show up in a coat & tie, you can always take the coat off and loosen your tie, but you cannot put on a coat & tie if you don't have it!

In other words, it is EASY to "dress down", it is impossible to "dress up"!

Whites and knives "in the car" or available, if you are asked to work in the kitchen.

If you have sample menus, etc., bring them along so you can show them if asked.

Before you go, find out EVERYTHING YOU CAN about the owner's place, EVERYTHING!

Before you "volunteer" ANYTHING, have a clear understanding as to what the owner is looking for.

Be ready to ask questions and learn all you can BEFORE offering or suggesting ANYTHING.

Remember the Golden Rule. . . "He who has the GOLD, RULES!"
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #7 of 13
Don't want to rain on your parade, but I see a red flag here. Upscale and comfort food in my mind are mutually exclusive. Nobody wants a meat loaf or mac and cheese with fois gras on top. I have the feeling this guy isn't clear on what he wants his place to be. Is he already in business and the economy is killing him? Is this an upscale place that needs to simplify their menu and get rid of their high end frou-frou window dressing (fois gras and shaved truffles) in order to stay in business? I have the feeling that this is what the situation is, in which case you should look at menus from the supper club places from the '40s through the early '70s. This would be the old hat stuff that everyone makes fun of now, but what the hey, people liked it. That would be prime rib au jus (horseradish sauce is a nice addition), porterhouse steak with compound butter on it, lobster tail (cheap now), oysters Rockefeller, etc. Labor costs were relatively low to produce these items and they were simple yet elegant if done right. I read recipes today that have such an abundance of complicated ingredients that I can't even imagine what the dish would taste like. Overkill in my opinion. I watch the food shows and read trade magazines, and I see things that look interesting, but for the most part you can make the most avant guard dish you can think of and set it down next to a med. rare porterhouse with sauteed mushrooms and a baked potato, and the average American diner will take the steak every time. That might be the angle the guy is looking for. Someone who can maintain his reputation and still produce food that will get rave reviews at a lower cost to him. Ask him what he is trying to acheive. If he is trying to lower costs (likely) be ready with a few suggestions for simplifying existing menu items. Using steak as an example, let's say they are currently finishing with a house-made demi. Labor intensive. Suggest a compound butter instead. Much lower cost for both labor and ingredients.
post #8 of 13
Like others I suggest you dress to win. Since this sounds like your first gigg as Chef I would go in with an open mind. In Chicago I wouldn't even think of going to an interview with out a sport jacket and tie. While I agree with the others that you should have a set of whites and your knives in the car you don't need to bring the entire kitchen with you. Any employer that can't give you the tools to succeed is not worth working for.
I think writing a menu is putting the cart way in front of the horse. Remember that not every opportunity is worth taking. There are a lot of people out there that fancy them selves as knowledgeable about food and great restaurateurs who will do little more than stall your career. Be selective about who you work for. Listen to their plan or what they are expecting. Ask yourself, Why Me? Why are they not looking at established Chef's? These are questions to ask your self and are worth considering. Research this place and their past reviews menus etc.
I don't know how any one writes a menu with out seeing the kitchen first and knowing what equipment or work space is available. It does no good at all to have lofty ideas that you can not execute. Think about the location of this place and it's chances for success as much as the salary.
If he asks what salary you want ask what the salary range for the position is. Never negotiate with your self.
Best of luck and remember even if it doesn't work out you should take some thing from the interview that may help you next time.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone who replied. This isn't someone "reconcepting" a failing restaurant. The owner has (at least) one other place that I know of (tapas) and he's looking to do something new in another location. This is indeed my first try at a head chef gig. I've acted as head when the chef was gone, but that's it.

Thanks again.
Bryan
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post #10 of 13
Good luck Bryan, let us know how it goes!
post #11 of 13
as a long time sous myself i feel qualified to do any excutive chefs job......do you know the saying " the sous chef does all the work, the chef gets all the credit " confidence is key .....best of luck and let us know how it goes
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
So I was on my way to the interview, had all my stuff with me, ready to rock and roll. Guy calls me and tells me he has to reschedule becuase something came up. Let's hope this isn't a sign of what is to come.
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post #13 of 13
Sounds like maybe a Bouchon type menu; fresh fish, confited duck, pates etc. Excellent ingredients used to produce classic French Bistro food.....although I wouldn't use the word bistro.....
UNDER PRESSURE AT PEMBROKE
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
http://thepembrokekitchen.blogspot.com/
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UNDER PRESSURE AT PEMBROKE
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
http://thepembrokekitchen.blogspot.com/
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