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Please help me hire the right chef

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'm a self taught chef and own a catering business - and business is booming.  Only problem is that I cannot seem to find the right chef to take over the kitchen.  I could sit here and bitch all day about the poor quality of chefs I have worked with, the bad habits that seem prevalent and the overwhelming incompetency I find day in and day out.  But the truth is that I let all of these guys work for me, so perhaps I need some help finding the right person. 

 

Does anyone have some good guidelines to help me identify the red flags BEFORE I bring someone on?  I need someone who is organized, knows how to build a timeline, understands food costs and is willing to make lists.   Very simple actually.   How about a list of questions for an interview?  As good as I felt I had done with interviewing, it amazes me how many have simply lied about their competence.  I am considering hiring someone much younger to teach them the right way to do things, as opposed to hiring someone with experience and bad habits (and a book full of shortcuts).  Any advice?

 

Thanks!

 

-Kevin

post #2 of 14

Are you checking references? Why not ask them to work with you for a day to see if its a good fit. I dunno about catering, but in restaurants an on the job tryout is normal and can tell you a lot about someone. 

post #3 of 14

As you said, you must find someone who is organized and is familiar with both quality and volume. As well as a consideration of shipping and packaging problems.

    Nothing wrong with hireing a younger fellow that YOU can promise a good wage and job, and HE can promise to uphold your quality specs, and a long term commitment. First thing is just see if you get along and can work together. In catering the easiest part of business is cooking , but you by now already know that.. Tell him the bad part of business, the long hours ,schleping of food and equipment, working days and nights and weekends. Its a rough business. He must be attentive to detail and have a good memory and so do you as you know. Check his credit rating most big corps today do and find the better employees have better rating. Check to see if inside of his car is neat and clean as well as outside. If its dirty and sloppy so will he be. To bad your not in West Palm Area I would help you out on some gigs.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #4 of 14

Kevin,

 

I'm having the same problem - see my post titled  culinary schools.

 

I know this is my problem since I keep making the same mistake. 

post #5 of 14
If I can hijack your thread...I would ask the forum if it's possible for a chef to hire a chef?

I own a restaurant and can't hire a chef either! I don't think my standards are too high. I'd just like to find a guy that can dice an onion.

J
post #6 of 14

I hired sous chefs all my life.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #7 of 14

 

Quote:
If I can hijack your thread...I would ask the forum if it's possible for a chef to hire a chef?

 

If I can hijack it further...I would ask if it's possible for a chef to hire a chef...and then allow them to be a chef.

 

I have had difficulties in the past with being hired as chef and then being expected to be a carbon copy of the chef that hired me.

 

There is more than one right way to dice an onion. If I walk out my front door and walk 10 yards and make a right turn and continue the process, I will wind up back at my front door. I can also complete the same journey with left turns. Which turn is more right?

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

 

 

If I can hijack it further...I would ask if it's possible for a chef to hire a chef...and then allow them to be a chef.

 

I have had difficulties in the past with being hired as chef and then being expected to be a carbon copy of the chef that hired me.

 

There is more than one right way to dice an onion. If I walk out my front door and walk 10 yards and make a right turn and continue the process, I will wind up back at my front door. I can also complete the same journey with left turns. Which turn is more right?


Well, ya...by definition, by calling oneself a "chef" it automatically denotes that one knows the best way to do everything.  biggrin.gif

 

 

I've just had some bad luck, and I honestly feel like I am trying not to expect a carbon copy...I'm the owner, who can I possibly hire that would care as much?  But I've seen some things in the past four years that may give a little perspective.  

 

Call me old fashioned, but I didn't even bother to find out how a broccoli cheddar soup started with a gallon of cold water with a raw sliced onion in it turned out.  I've never seen food cost hit the mark when steaks are cut by eyeball (2 ounces to heavy).  I've never seen employee moral improve when an entry level cook is "branded" with a white hot spatula, and my catering business never improved when the food is delivered cold and raw.

 

On the flipside, I have found that chef's that "tie off" with a stretched out piece of plastic wrap can find the vein quicker than chefs who don't and Chef's who pair cheesecake with mashed potatoes will gain weight at a faster rate than chef's who just eat the cheesecake.  

 

BTW, all different "well referred" chefs.

 

Things work better, my staff is happier, and I may make some money if I let growing the business fall by the wayside and just run the kitchen.  

 

Hijack complete.

 

J

 

post #9 of 14

Get two cooks and start showing them the ropes.  Promote from within.

post #10 of 14

Okay, I've had experience with this, so since I mainly do personal chef services AND run a small catering company, I'll tell you what I did that has worked out amazingly well!

 

I agree with the "tying off the arm to find the vein" theory posted above.  Through my journeys in the food industry, I've seen some things.  I'm sure we ALL have!  So when I semi-reired 2 years ago, and started this up, when we started to get "big" and I needed help, I went the OPPOSITE direction (thanks George Costanza ;).

 

I ran an ad for "home cooks who have a passion for what they do, and LOVE cooking, willing to learn on an entry level basis, have fun...etc".  I figured a LOT of home cooks would love the chance to cook in a commercial kitchen, and even more, love the chance to pick up some tips from a professional chef.  Because catering and personal cheffing isn't like a back kitchen, you can allot time more accordingly and plan better, so there's time to teach a little (mainly about what I want and how I want it done) and run a happy kitchen.

 

Inside of a week, I had about 10 good applicants, I took 2 full timers and 4 part timers.  Not ONE had ever stepped foot into a professional kitchen.  They are older, passionate, love to learn new things, and BETTER, have taught me a few things I didn't know either.  We have a great time, we make money, and there's none of that weird kitchen culture going on, because they were never exposed to it.

 

So that's my thoughts.  Hope it might help!

post #11 of 14

Brilliant idea, Southerncross!  I'm have a cafe and catering business and I think your philosophy would work for me, too.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post

Get two cooks and start showing them the ropes.  Promote from within.


I think that might be the direction I will go.

 

My biggest issues have been those of bad habits and poor work ethic.  Also, I find that many seasoned chefs are set in their ways and think they know it all. 

 

The toughest part about having someone just do an interview is that they can usually fool you for a few weeks or a few months, until their true colors begin to show.  In a restaurant, you can usually tell right away if someone can "hack it" or not.  Catering seems to take a lot longer to figure out, since it is drawn out and consists of a longer time period.

 

 

 

post #13 of 14

As someone who does not know it all or even attempts to portray as such may I make a few observations.

 

No one will ever be the carbon copy of another Chef or cook, do not expect it or desire it for you will be certainly disappointed. If you want someone who will work for you and prepare your recipe then you need to train them yourself, take the time to do it and make sure you cover all aspects.

 

As southerncross has mentioned, it is best to start within and slowly train current employees over time.

post #14 of 14

Seems to me your having trouble with titles. Spend some time on a detailed job description and hire an experienced person.

Trash the title and see if they can perform. an use a 30 trial

Like Chefed says, been hiring sous's for years with out any of these things I'm hearing. You'll get out of someone what you put in.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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