Restaurant owners spend a lot of time writing their business plans, designing their restaurants and getting financing. But one of the biggest challenges that still lingers is having to find a chef. A good chef will help a restaurant thrive, but a bad chef will cost your restaurant business.

You need to know how to find a chef for your restaurant that will help make your business a success. It's a long, tedious process, but worth the effort. The right chef does a lot more than prepares the food.

chef duties

Chef responsibilities can include:

  • Training new staff members

  • Preparing food

  • Developing menus

  • Optimizing and overseeing the cooking

  • Assisting in marketing decisions

The duties of a chef are many, and executive chef skills are invaluable.

Chef Types: What Does Your Kitchen Need?

What type of chef do you need in your kitchen? The duties of an executive chef are going to be from different from a sous chef’s duties. Chef job duties will vary depending on the chef type chosen:

  1. Executive chef. A boss, and a one-of-a-kind employee in most restaurants. The executive chef is in a competitive field, and decades of experience is often needed to land this position. The executive chef’s duties will be overseeing the kitchen, ensuring the kitchen runs smoothly and creating menus.

  2. Sous chef. The sous chef is ambitious and understands team management. These chefs will help take control in the executive chef’s absence, and they’re “second” in control in the kitchen.

  3. Pastry chef. A master in the art of breads, desserts and pastries. The pastry chef specializes in pastries, breads and desserts, and they’ll often be responsible for designing desserts and coming up with unique recipes.

  4. Sauce chef. The job of a sauce chef, or Saucier, is to prepare sauces in the kitchen. These expert cooks will specialize in everything, from soups and stews to gravy, pasta sauce and salad dressings.

  5. Roast chef. A master in the art of meat, the Rotisseur has a lot of control over meat dishes, including how they’re cooked, which spices to use and which gravies best finish the dish.

Chefs also have their specialties, and this contributes significantly to the chef you choose. A chef that has experience in Mediterranean food may be a better fit for your Greek restaurant than a chef that has experience primarily in Asian cuisine.

the kitchen chef

What to Look for in Your Chef

Chef duties go beyond a resume. A chef that is the right fit for your kitchen may not be ideal for another kitchen. There are a lot of skills needed to be a chef, and when looking beyond credentials, you’ll need to consider the chef’s qualities.

What qualities do you need to consider?

  • Training ability: A chef in the kitchen will be required to also train and educate others. A pastry chef, for example, may need to educate a cook on how to properly bake a specific type of pastry. Chefs will need to help train new hires, and they’ll also be responsible for teaching new employees how to use certain types of equipment.

  • Patience. A chef that doesn’t have patience and a good temperament will quickly lose the respect of staff members. Pressure is part of the job, and if a chef is not able to keep emotions in check, it will lead to chaos in the kitchen. Patient chefs that excel under pressure will make those high-stress, chaotic days in the kitchen go smoothly without food quality suffering.

  • Detail. Chefs in the kitchen know more about the food process than most owners. These professionals will be in control of the kitchen, so their duties go beyond cooking. Chefs will need to contribute to menu creation, helping order inventory and also coming up with specials.

  • Quality. Restaurants that want to achieve high ratings need to pay attention to quality. Chefs that only expect the best quality will find themselves working for the best restaurants, leading teams that ensure every dish is made to perfection. Quality is of the utmost importance when hiring a chef because quality will leave a lasting impression on your restaurant – good or bad.

  • Computer skills are a must-have, too. A chef, especially a sous and executive chef, will need to be proficient in Excel and Word to start. Excel will allow a chef to help with designing a menu based on profits and cost of product. This plays an integral role in figuring out how to price a menu. Word will be used to help create menu layouts and write menu descriptions as needed.

Chefs may also take to social media and help with promoting new specials or marketing the restaurant.

Finally, your chef needs to meld into the owner’s vision of the business. Business owners that have high standards for customer service need chefs that are able to maintain these standards.

executive chef skills

Taste the Chef’s Food to Back Up Experience

You’ve scoured resumes, called references and you believe you’ve found the right kitchen chef that will fill your restaurant’s ranks. But what if all of his or her experience and references are stellar? Will you choose this chef based off of someone else’s experience?

No.

You want to see the chef in action, and this can be done through a test.

It's not uncommon during the hiring process to ask the chef to cook a dish. Why? Taste is everything in the food business. When you ask your potential chef to cook a dish, you’ll be doing more than just tasting the creation. You'll want to ask yourself:

  • How does the chef organize a recipe?

  • How does the chef work in the kitchen?

  • Are the techniques that the chef uses what you expect in your kitchen?

  • Does the chef keep a clean workspace, or is the workspace a mess that will lead to chaos during the busy season?

  • Pay attention to the attitude and personality of the chef. Is the chef rushing or cracking under pressure? If the chef can’t keep calm during your test, how will he or she handle a night when the restaurant has a line waiting out of the door?

When the chef is done with the creation, you’ll have a much better understanding of how he or she operates in the kitchen. You may find that the person isn’t the ideal choice to oversee the kitchen, even though the dish was bursting with flavor from the very first bite.

Chefs may interview well and have a stellar resume, but when they enter the kitchen, they become frazzled. Perhaps these chefs aren’t ideal to run the kitchen, but they can fill the role of a cook or non-executive chef very well.

A chef needs to be able to be creative, multi-dimensional and pay attention to detail through it all to ensure that your restaurant’s food is of the best possible quality.

All chefs will have their experience and education properly analyzed and critiqued, but it’s often the personality traits of the chef that will be a determining factor when deciding between two chefs with similar experience levels.

Rushing through the hiring process is never a good idea. Hiring the first chef who walks through the door is never the answer. Take time when hiring a chef to find the right fit for your restaurant.