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Questions to Ask Chefs

by Morgan Rush, studioD

Chefs can make or break a restaurant kitchen, so choose interview questions that will help carefully screen individuals for appropriate experience, training and desired work ethic. Although you’ll want to ask questions that specifically address culinary expertise and aesthetics, don’t forget to inquire about financial know-how and teamwork capabilities, since these factors also contribute to a chef’s success. Make sure a chef’s stated long-term goals are in alignment with your organization's future goals to avoid a conflict of interest.

Relationship with Food

Restaurants won’t succeed when chefs are half-heartedly flipping crepes in the kitchen. You want to hire a chef who's genuinely passionate about food and loves cooking. To better understand a chef’s relationship with food, ask questions about what she's prepared at home recently or what's the most memorable meal she ever consumed, according to Smithfields Restaurant and Bar. You might ask when the chef last created a new dish or which restaurants in town she most often frequents.

Food Trend Alert

Trends may come and go, but change is constant in the fashionable world of restaurant dining. What seems new and fresh one year might seem passé the following year. Although you want to hire a chef who has a strong repertoire of numerous recipes, staying current matters. Ask questions such as whether the chef subscribes to culinary arts magazines, attends industry trade events or travels to learn new methods or discover interesting ingredients. If your chef turns up her nose at new cooking trends, you’ll lose customers looking for the latest thing. Consider asking the chef to identify a current chef making major contributions to the culinary arts or ideas about incorporating trendy ingredients into classic dishes.

Hot in the Kitchen

Kitchens are high-stress environments, so interview questions should help determine whether chefs can handle conflict or pressure with positivity and grace. Consider asking a potential chef to describe a work-related problem she recently resolved or explain how she approaches mentorship with kitchen staff. You could also ask her to provide examples of her top three people skills; for example, she might describe how she used conflict-resolution skills to soothe frayed nerves after the busy holiday banquet season.

Money Matters

Ask the chef to provide evidence of financial knowledge; for example, she might explain how a menu she designed for a previous employer resulted in a 25-percent increase in sales within one year, according to Food Chef.net. You might ask the chef how she helps design specials that align with budget constraints, how she addresses waste or theft, or whether she's previously worked with a sommelier to develop specially marketed wine and food events for the restaurant. Chef responses should indicate awareness and support of advancing a restaurant’s financial goals.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images