Need A Head Chef? 11 Questions to Narrow the Field

Need A Head Chef

Head chefs set the tone for your kitchen when it comes to the food and the staff.

The best chefs are passionate about their jobs while bringing creativity and ingenuity to your kitchen.

You want your chef to not only have these qualities, but you want your chef to be a skilled leader as well.

Do you need a head chef? If so, we’ve put together 11 questions to narrow the field as you look for a head chef to direct your kitchen and help you grow your restaurant.

#1:  Why do you want to be a head chef?

This question can tell you a lot about your potential new hire while helping you narrow the field.

If the answer is, “I want to make a lot of money,” this may be a sign you want to look elsewhere.

With this question, you hope your interviewee will answer with why he/she loves cooking, how it makes them feel and what they hope to bring to your restaurant.

Look for answers that include their desire to provide an excellent dining experience to your customers.

A follow-up to this question might be asking them why they decided to become a chef and what their goals are.

More follow-ups could include any of the following as well:

  • Why did you become a chef?
  • Have you worked in any other positions in a restaurant?
  • Did you go to culinary school? If so, where?
  • What was the most important thing you learned at culinary school?

#2: Why did you leave your last job?

With this question, you can glean how they really feel about their last restaurant owner.

If they answer very negatively about their previous job, consider this a warning sign.

In addition, if they had a bad experience at their last job, but they manage to explain to you what they learned from it, then this may be seen as a positive sign.

#3: Are you a team player?

This question is looking for the obvious, “Yes, I’m a team player!”

Most likely they’ll answer this way, and if so, you want to push them a little bit and ask them how they are a team player.

You want to know what they did in their last job that made them a team player.

Ask them if their fellow staff members would agree. This can be very enlightening.

Some follow-up questions to this one include:

  • Do you work well with others?
  • Are you focused?
  • Do you have a sense of humor?
  • How do you handle a fellow teammates lack of participation?
  • Describe your role in the previous team environment where you worked.

#4: What is your leadership style?

First, you want to know if they’ve ever managed a team. Then, you want to find out more about their management style.

Asking this question helps you learn about their leadership qualities if they’ve been a head chef before.

Dig around a bit to uncover the management style expected of them at their previous job.

You also want to learn what they believe makes a good leader.

Find out how many employees they supervised on a regular basis.

Ask them how many employees they feel comfortable supervising.

For follow-ups to this question, you might pose the following questions:

  • Have you ever had to discipline a subordinate? If so, describe the situation.
  • Ask them to talk about their relationship with the front of the house at their last job. As the leader of the kitchen, you want to know how they interacted with the leader and staff of the front of the house.

#5: What are your strengths?

This is a great question. It sets your candidate at ease and lets them tell you all about why you should hire them.

#6: What are your weaknesses?

For most people, this is a hard question. If they provide you a good answer, you know they came ready to discuss this.

Weaknesses aren’t always bad as long as your candidate is willing to work on the weakness and turn it into a strength. (tweet this)

questions to ask your chef

Presentation skills are an important skill-set of the head chef.

#7: Why do you want to work here?

Another important question, this answer shows you whether or not your head chef candidate has done any research on your restaurant.

You’re looking for a positive answer that shows the candidate can put the focus on your business.

#8: Describe a difficult situation and how you handled it?

Again, you hope your interviewee is prepared for this one because everyone has had to deal with a difficult situation at one time or another.

Push this question a little and try to get the candidate to elaborate on a difficult encounter with a customer and/or fellow team member.

Look for their positive spin on this one. It should either be the way they handled it or something they learned.

#9: Can you handle pressure and long hours?

Restaurants are busy, fast-paced places, and you want to ensure your choice for head chef can handle it. (tweet this)

In addition, you want to make sure your chef knows holidays and weekends are expected.

#10: Are you open to ongoing learning?

The best candidate for head chef will know there’s always learning to be done.

This question helps you understand whether your interviewee is interested in ongoing learning opportunities.

Find out if they’re interested in improving their skills. If they’re not, it may be they think they don’t have anything else to learn. This is not a good sign.

#11­: Talk about their knowledge of cuisine.

Most chefs are foodies.

You want to know more about their favorite type of cuisine along with what they are able to cook.

If you serve wine, test their knowledge of food and wine pairings.

Consider asking them to put together sample menus for each season. You could have them do this before they arrive or ask them to send it to you after the interview.

This can help you see if they’re a good fit for your restaurant.

Ask them if they’re willing to accommodate special needs for customers as they arise. This tells you if they are willing to go above and beyond to provide customer service.

As a follow-up to this question, you can ask them about their skills when it comes to the financial side of being a head chef. Find out what they know about budgeting, purchasing and inventory control. 

Final Thoughts

The title of chef is one that’s earned through the years after someone has put in a lot of work and has earned the respect due the title.

A skilled chef is one who is not only an excellent cook, but one who is adept at leadership and kitchen management.

If you need a head chef, you want to look for someone who can lead your kitchen, manage your staff skillfully and provide the very best food and food presentation to your customers.

This is a lot to ask from one person, but when you find just the right head chef, you know your kitchen and your restaurant are in good hands.

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Images: Caroline Attwood and Fabrizio Magoni on Unsplash


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