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Hiring Exec Chef?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

   I currently work in a restaurant with my family. Its a BBQ/Ribs joint with live music 6-7 nights a week. People love our food, but the problem is my parents and I are so busy, we would really like to hire someone to run the kitchen, so we can work on other aspects of the business. We have played with the idea of hiring an executive chef, but so far everyone we have hired with culinary experience have been flakes, or cant take the pressure when it gets busy (this means we stick to the non-culinary people and train them up).


   How do we go about finding a REAL-DEAL chef to run our kitchen? And when we find one, whats the best way to integrate them in? I know it will be hard to let go and have someone else run the show, but I dont want to have any doubts about anyone we bring on. We are about to move to a bigger location, so they need to be able to think clearly and under pressure (which has been hard for us to find in anyone).


Any advice is greatly appreciated

post #2 of 4

I sympathize with your predicament. Hiring is a difficult process. Naturally  I would be perfect for your operation but I'm not moving any time soon. Lol. 

In all seriousness, a couple of thoughts come to mind. 

     Is there any one you can promote out of those you are training up? 

If not, I will ask for a little clarity. 

What are your expectations for the qualities a real deal chef will have? 

Everyone you hire with experience is a flake? While everyone who hires has horror stories, so does everyone who got hired. You state that you know it will be hard to let go… Did you let go with the flakes? 


    I ran a restaurant with my parents for many years. If I am honest, we were all a bit "flaky" in our own way. We had many, many arguments about everything. That often meant employees getting the shrapnel. I am proud to be able to say that we managed to hire a lot of good people who chose to remain with us for many more years than I expected despite our "flakiness".  


    For the sake of this post, I will speak as the perfect candidate for the job you are looking for. Experienced, organized, calm under pressure, culinary degree, creative, etc. I have everything you want. I'm also exceptionally good looking, a member of Mensa, play numerous musical instruments and am quite the undiscovered painter. . 

My questions to you are the following. 

     Do I get access to sales reports, food costs and all the other information I need to make good decisions? 

Will you as the owner talk only to me regarding kitchen employees or will you undercut my authority by disciplining employees without my input? Can I hire and fire at will? Any family members in the kitchen I will have to tolerate? (Btw, your cousin/sister/nephew is an idiot with a bad attitude and needs to be let go)

     Everyone loves your food. Really? Your recipe for a particular dish sucks, it doesn't sell much and isn't profitable. My recipe is demonstrably better. I have made the dish for you and you agree it tastes better, has better presentation and is more profitable. Is there an issue or can we drop your recipe and use mine immediately? 

     There are organizational issues in the kitchen that are causing problems when it gets busy. I need to change things around so I can make service go smoother. This may involve losing or changing production for certain menu items, transferring employees to a different position, moving equipment to ease the flow, recommending the purchase of new equipment or small wares to make things easier. I am quite willing to discuss this with you to better understand relevant costs and other issues but I can and did demonstrate how my ideas will improve service in terms of time, quality and stress reduction. Will you be open minded? 

     The kitchen has ironed out production issues at the height of service. The remaining problems are caused by the front of the house and the inability of the manager to work with me to iron out service issues. (See other posts on chef talk regarding how to contact waitstaff to pick up their orders in a timely fashion, among other FOH issues.)

    You are paying me salary, not hourly. I have organized things so that the kitchen runs well even if I am not there. Employees follow recipes, discipline is tight, morale is high, cleanliness was never better. I have a dentist appointment on Wednesday at 2pm. Is that a problem? 


     These are just some of my concerns. There are others but let us start with these.  

You remind of the "throwing stones while living in a glass house" saying. Your post says to me that you and your parents are successful but are a bit hamstrung because EVERYONE with culinary experience is a flake. That's a big red flag for me. 

post #3 of 4
Chefwriter hits the nail on the head. Ditto ALL that, plus: chefs know each other and know people that work in restaurants. If they hear you are hiring, they will ask around and see what the work environment is like... probably from people who don't work there anymore. Also, if you haven't employed a kitchen manager/chef, you should do some research as to how much they should be paid.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

   Thank you for the replies, and honestly, we would love to have someone like you come on board. Our goal right now is to get out of the kitchen. If we had someone we knew we could trust, knew could make good decisions on behalf of the business, we would bring them on in a heartbeat. We need someone who knows what they are doing so we can take our business to the next level. Letting go of the reigns will be hard, because its our families lively hood, but we also know it must happen to grow.


   What you wrote in your post sounds wonderful to me, and I know exactly what you mean about the arguments with family. Spend all day in a high stress environment with your parents and you are going to have arguments over silly things (although it doesn't really happen anymore).


   Now when I say we've hired other people with culinary experience, we never hired them on to run the kitchen. We hired them because we figured they would have discipline, knowledge that WE could learn from, and be reliable because, after all they went to school for food. The people we hired would show up late, complain, wouldn't want to do more menial tasks i.e. helping prep if needed, take out trash etc (small kitchen, we ALL share the work). Not to say all people with culinary experience are like this, otherwise we would not want to hire a chef, but this has been our experience so far.

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