Some very valid points there KYH.
I guess it all comes down to interviewing skills and "gut feelings"--tht is if you feel the chemistry is right, and the applicant didn't bomb in the kitchen, you're 99% it is the right hire irregardless of age.
Age is no guarantee of experience, I remember this one 18 yr old kid I almost didn't hire, and the interview didn't go all to well. I re-read the resume and noticed the working dates didn't match up, kid said he'd worked 7 summers at this one place. It finally dawned on me it was his Uncles's place. Most kitchen-savvy 18 yr old kid I ever knew.....
On the other hand, I wasted more time than I care to interviewing culinary school graduates with virtually no other kitchen experience. Will I be the one to show them how to clean and boil out a fryer safely while still paying them? That you HAVE to keep fridge doors closed or the coil will ice up and the fridge will warm up? That you HAVE to scrub and rinse off pots and cookware before they go into the dishwasher or they won't get clean and you'll just dirty the d/w tank and double or triple the time to clean again anyway? That hotel pans sizes are like "Legos": 1/9th, 1/6th, 1/3, 1/2, full, full deep, etc, AND smile while I pay them? That thier ideas are wonderfull but I have a limit of 15 mins prep time per order for a $15.00 lunch special?
Experience is the "equalizer" for these issues.
I hate the concept of "school of hard knocks" mainly because I have been knocked around too, and some of the things I learned took years to unlearn.
Most of the time however, an interview--for me-- is just a fact-finding mission. Dates and places match up? Nervous behavior--so what? Excessive nervous behavior, watch out. Control check: Are you willing to take a drug test?--Guage behavior. Sample questions as to how you'd make this or that, or the steps you'd take to prepare for a party of 200.
But the only thing that will make me hire or not hire the person is to actually watch the dude perform daily, normal activities in my kitchen for 3 or 4 hr shift. I don't go for any "staging", I just pay outright. If the appliant is a keeper, I keep, if the applicant is a stinker, I congratulate myself for spending the 60 or 70 bucks to determine that.
I'm just a cook, have no HR courses or special HR skills under my belt, but I've sat on both sides of the table and know that an interview is just a fact-finding mission.