Hiring the Best Chef for Your Restaurant (According to Tenured Chefs)

       As a former recruiter of a high-volume restaurant group, I can tell you first hand that hiring great management is a serious challenge, not to mention chefs.  Of course, experience managing a kitchen, efficient in execution, budget consciousness, and training staff are all no brainers in hiring a top notch BOH talent, but once someone takes the reins in your kitchen things can change- fast!  A green chef can sometimes switch it up for better, but more often than not for the worst.  Since it’s too damn hot in the kitchen to just let anyone manage your BOH Team, Harri turned to our vibrant hospitality network to see what some hiring managers / owners might miss in their chef search.

1)   Transparency & Trust

    Like prep before every service, lay out your mise en place …or in this case your honest expectations of the job at hand.  Have a written description ready and make sure that duties of the position actually fit the title.  A “full disclosure of expectations, [and] making sure you are advertising for the right title”, will prevent any confusion during an interview and post hire.  You should not expect an Executive Chef to run food or Kitchen Managers to interact with guests.  This also keeps your interests at heart, as anyone can say a duty is not his/hers but if there is a paper trail, then no one can deny it.

     According to Chef Cash you should also be as upfront as possible with any obstacles your restaurant has faced in its past – high food costs, line-level staffing, inconsistent plates, varied ticket times, paying invoices on time, etc.  Having “transparency in the challenges the restaurant is facing "could be a deal breaker for some, but if a candidate has come across these problems before and solved them, it could [be] true game changer for your overall business.  Since hiring is a two-way street, “be prepared to trust who you hire”. Try your best to throw in questions about integrity (ie. Tell me about a time when your morale was compromised, what did you do? etc).  If this person is taking on a leadership role in your business, having faith in his/her abilities is crucial.  Be sure to not let prior issues cloud your judgment, and lead to micromanagement.  The last thing a great chef wants is someone breathing down his or her neck.    

2)   Belief in Concept

     The best chef in the world has absolutely no value to your restaurant if they have zero interest in the concept.  Chef Landas urges that viable candidates, “at the very least, [should have] a strong interest in the cuisine style of the restaurant”.  Hiring a chef with 5 years experience at a farm-to-table, Italian restaurant will most likely not benefit a Chinese restaurant specializing in Dim Sum.  If your concept’s brand relies heavily on a set menu, make that fact crystal clear to your prospective chef.  Otherwise you could end up with,“ managers and chefs who will try and make the place ‘their own’, deviating from your restaurant’s theme.  A nice way to approach this is keeping the set menu through a certain period of time (maybe a season or quarter) and allowing the new chef to explore creativity through specials. Seeing how well the specials sell can be a good indicator on whether or not to let him/her tweak the menu, before changing it all together.

3)   Ego

     This is a notoriously “touchy” subject, especially with chefs.  Always remember that no one is special enough to treat others with disrespect in your business, most importantly your BOH Team.  Leading a great team in any field requires a certain level of humility, great chefs “should be confident, but not cocky”, and still maintain a “willingness to learn” per Franklin Becker, even at a high level in their careers.  There’s nothing worse than a tenured chef, who comes into a kitchen with no room for compromise.  This attitude is counter-productive and drives kitchens into the ground.  Chef Landas recalls, “I’ve seen many instances where highly qualified chefs scare off good quality staff because they were a**holes”.  The my-way-or-the-highway days are over, even in the best restaurants, look at Noma and Alinea.  They dedicate nights when cooks of all levels can present different dishes to the team and brainstorm menu ideas.

Collaborative mindsets with staff make a huge difference in service, and gaining line-level staff trust is key.  According to Mike Landas, “It’s important to design your interview [process] to see if the candidates will have chemistry with the staff”.  This is where trailing is important, choose your busiest shift and throw them in the mix – brunch and Thurs – Sat @ 7-9 PM dinner service are highly recommended.  After he or she leaves, ask the line-level staff/ cooks, what they think and if they would listen to this person.  If this seems counterintuitive think of it this way: you want to put the best captain at the helm of your ship, it’s best that your kitchen does not become the Titanic, and that all the lifeboats are onboard.

 

 

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The 3 Best Ways to Find Cooks

      Finding excellent cooks is one of the most challenging of the restaurant industry.  Cooks are the backbone of every restaurant, they are usually the ones executing the food that brings in revenue. Good cooks are essential to any thriving restaurant.  The best cooks are able to follow instructions accordingly to their respective chefs’ recipes, have some experience (but no ego), know that creativity is reserved for after they prove themselves in the kitchen - all for hourly wages and low pay.  Some of the usual obstacles of recruiting for these difficult positions include: no shows for interviews and training, candidates not looking to stay for a long period of time.  With all of these challenges turnover is high and all chefs need competent cooks - fast! There are better ways than posting on every individual job board and waiting for candidates to come to you.

1. Referrals

    When a position is open, referrals are usually the first route chefs and managers take to get someone through the door, especially for finding skilled cooks.  If your guy on grill is killing it every night and has never called out once, chances are he might know other hard working people like him.  You get his friend through the door from his old job, and she happens to be a beast in prep - problem solved!  However, referrals can be risky just as they are successful.  Be wary of hiring just anyone your employees ask to hire.  Set some parameters and restrictions on who can be referred.  The last thing you want is a husband and wife working in the same space arguing about the kids, while you’re waiting at expo for a steak on the fly because table 12 ordered steak tartare and didn’t know it was supposed to be “raw”.  Referrals are a pretty safe bet for filling a few positions, but if you hire referrals only because you need a “body on the floor” it could be a disaster.   

2. Proper Job Promotion


    Posting on job boards is very effective but posting to multiple job boards is a painstaking process.  If your job happens to be posted on the wrong board then great candidates can miss an opportunity to work for you.  Cooks have hectic schedules and a limited amount of time to apply for new jobs, so more exposure is always better. Harri’s Job Distributor takes all of the strengths of Craigslist, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, CareerJet, Jooble and more, then posts them all at once. You will be able to see your jobs (host, waiter, and chef jobs) right away. You receive the volume and quality of all of the job boards in one place, and it saves you time from posting on each one.  As an extra plus, candidates can use their smartphones to apply through the application, so they can come through your restaurant doors quickly!

 

 

Courtesy of @lupulonyc Instagram 

Courtesy of @lupulonyc Instagram 

3. Social Media

    Much like referrals this could be a hit or miss.  Being aware of peak times to post is key for having job ads on social media.  This takes a little more preparation than posting an ad on a job board or asking a cook if he has any friend or past co-workers for referrals.  A good job post on social media must be very image driven.  Usually restaurants collaborate with their marketing or PR Teams to get this completed, then they can use the same ads whenever there are positions to be filled.  For example Chipotle went all out by dedicating an entire Facebook page to gain more candidates, while Lupulo kept it simple with an Instagram post with the positions available.  When posting on Facebook remember to do so with with images and video.  Studies have shown that have 39% more post engagement, than just posting text alone.  If you go the Instagram route then note the most successful times to post are Mon-Thurs from 6AM -12PM. One of the largest drawbacks can be that expense if you don’t have internal resources to create these posts.  Overall, posting positions on social media is effective because almost everyone has a cell phone and the reach is not only instantaneous but shareable.   

 

 

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THE BEST WAY FOR ENTERPRISE BUSINESSES TO SOURCE, HIRE & ONBOARD HOSPITALITY TALENT

Harri is more than just a talent marketplace for hospitality professionals. We are a Total Talent Solution that thoughtfully provides you the technology support you need, when you most need it.

Source, hire, on-board employees and more, all on one dynamic platform, designed for unique hospitality needs by hospitality professionals.  

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Webinar: How Technology is Revolutionizing Hospitality Hiring

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  Harri’s CEO & Founder, Luke Fryer, recently presented at the NY Hospitality Alliance Tech Conference as the keynote speaker. He discussed how technology is transforming and modernizing the way restaurants hire and job seekers find employment.

On Tuesday, March 3rd at 2:00PM EST, Harri is hosting a webinar to continue the conversation on the growing influence of technology in the hospitality industry, as well as to explain how Harri is using innovative tools to create a more efficient hiring process.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP by clicking the button below. Note that space is limited, so sign up now while there are still seats available.

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