View Full Version : What do chefs look for when hiring??

02-15-2012, 09:47 AM
Hi, I have moved to Sydney to pursue an education at Le Cordon Bleu. Although I already have 1.5 years of professional cooking experience and another culinary certificate from Singapore, I still find it hard to enter the top restaurants, even if I volunteer to work for below apprenticeship wages which are currently $8/hr. I cannot afford to work for free as I do have to cover my living expenses.

If someone like me shows up at your establishment looking for work, what are you looking for and what will make you give me a job or trail? Is e-mailing resumes fine or is it better to walk in(not during service of course) and ask to see the chef? How often can I go back to a restaurant and ask about any job openings without being considered overly persistent?

Cheers and thanks in advance!!

02-15-2012, 11:18 AM
Great questions! Looking forward to the responses.


Eamon Burke
02-15-2012, 04:37 PM
Honestly, 90% of the time they are doing something you can't prepare for: comparing you to the guy before you. Either he was shyte and they want to see that you aren't going to be doing whatever he was(checking his phone all the time, slow prep, forgetting he fired food), or comparing you to his awesomeness.

I'd say you have two choices: Either work a shift for free and just be you, they can take it or leave it. Or, if you are willing to change who you are for the job(I.E. learn to work faster, take more criticism, talk less, etc), just be lively and alert, be honest about what you know but make it clear that you know you can do anything and are willing to bust ass to get it done.

02-15-2012, 04:46 PM
Hard to imagine better advice than the above. ;-)

NO ChoP!
02-15-2012, 05:32 PM
It's hard coming from school, because in recent times, so many kids enter the culinary world thinking they are top chefs. They don't take the time to learn, rather wanting to project their own style, without paying any dues...

Trying to get into a "top restaurant" maybe isn't the best path. I would suggest working from the ground up and proving yourself in an up and coming establishment. After you have a few years of experience, and can attach your name to the success of a newer restaurant, you may get a little more respect.

The thing is, what every restaurant needs is grunts; hard working people who show up everyday and thrive with every challenge. A culinary certificate doesn't supply this. It is a mentality. Prove that you have a warrior mentality, not that you think your a culinary genius....

02-15-2012, 07:32 PM
Thing is, I am not asking for a high or even mid-level position. I'll be glad doing kitchen hand stuff. And I do have experience, having worked in hotels and restaurants in Singapore. Getting a culinary certificate is just for the theory lessons. I know how tough it is and I thrive on it. I have worked 100 hour weeks and still go to work smiling and even go back to help on my off days for free. Here, I've even volunteered to work a whole week for free (less 3 days of school) as a trial. But the question is rather on how to get that first foot in the door?

Eamon Burke
02-15-2012, 07:51 PM
Definitely show up in person. The rule is, the more important a message is, the closer you should be to face-to-face contact. That's why the military sends people out to tell folks that someone died--if it's important to you, do it in person.

02-15-2012, 08:02 PM
Madmel...sometimes it's just timing. I've not worked in the food industry, but I can think of three places I was hired, and when I walked in someone hadn't shown up for the fifth time or they had just fired someone ('course, I'm old).

One place was a prominent Napa Valley winery and, tho' I had grown up in Napa, had ZERO experience. The tasting room mgr. (who looked like the mgr. of a used car lot <g>) says...wow, am I glad to see you...and hired me on the spot. Like cooks, tasting room people are very transient. You might hit it just at the right time. I subsequently spent 25 years in the Napa Valley wine industry, in tasting rooms, wine cellars, vineyard management, etc. Personality/chemistry with the chef/mgr. sometimes has more to do with it than you might think. Don't look hangdog or desperate....and certainly not arrogant... but talk as if you EXPECT to be hired.

You sound like a hard worker, and dedicated to working in the industry.... so remember....don't give up and (this second thing is important)....there is no such thing as..." being considered overly persistent? <g>

02-15-2012, 08:11 PM
Definitely show up in person. The rule is, the more important a message is, the closer you should be to face-to-face contact. That's why the military sends people out to tell folks that someone died--if it's important to you, do it in person.

Totally agree. I've been in the position to hire people many times. Regardless of the current, technology inspired zeitgeist to send email resumes to 100 businesses in your field...I would NEVER hire someone on the basis of an email sent by someone too lazy to burn some shoe leather.

02-15-2012, 08:21 PM
Once you get a trial, working with a sense of urgency is the number one thing that I look for. You can teach or refine skills, but the manner in which someone approaches a job can't be taught.

El Pescador
02-15-2012, 11:28 PM

02-16-2012, 01:13 AM
I would say follow what No Chop and Eamon had to say. I look for willingness to do and learn and an ability to follow thru with a task and finish. Be positive and confident, but not cocky. Be honest about your strengths and weakness and work on the weakness to make it stronger.

02-16-2012, 04:35 AM
1. passion
2. attitude

02-17-2012, 08:43 AM
Hi Mel, I'm assuming that your here on a student visa that's limited to 25 hours paid work a week.

In my experience most places in OZ ( particularly high-end fine dining ) ,hire their cooking staff on a full-time basis. The reason being that they can get as labor as possible for a fixed wage.

I reckon you should get a copy of the most recent " Sydney morning herald food guide ". Work out on a map which places are within practicle traveling distance to where you're living. Then door knock each one outside of service times.

You need to get a foot in the door and even if you are washing pots, the network of fine dining people , even in a city as big as Sydney , is quite small.

Best of luck.


02-17-2012, 10:23 AM
I've just recently joined the food industry myself down in Melbourne as an apprentice (about 14months and worked as a kitchen hand for a few months before). I started low-end and connections have been made which have opened a lot of potential roads for me. I just looked in the classifieds (Epicure supplement in Tuesdays "The Age" down here, don't know what the equivalent in Sydney is) and on seek.com.au. Ended up applying for a job in a fairly popular pub; the food was nothing special, just high volume and high stress. Few months later the sous chef left to take a higher end job and offered me a job with him, I'm now coming up to the second year of my apprenticeship and plan to move to another establishment soon and the head chef has offered to put in a reference to friends in hatted restaurants.

So basically, my advice (and this is based PURELY on my personal experience so far in the industry) is:
Always apply in person and follow up with a call if you haven't heard anything for a few days;
Don't be too picky about aiming high, I started low and it's potentially opened paths for me to high-end restaurants and that's only just over a year in, which sure as hell flies by in this industry I'm sure you'll agree, and;
Don't complain. (you've done 100hour weeks so I assume you've got a good work ethic anyway)

Wish I could give more advice, but I'm pretty new to the industry and I'm an ex-pat too so my knowledge really is limited to my experiences.

All the best mate!


02-17-2012, 10:37 AM
Hi all. First off, thanks for all the advice.. Seems like door-knocking is the way to go then. I put in my resume with my school's industry placement team and they told me they probably could get me into one of the better restaurants (read Marque/Quay/est.) so fingers crossed!! But if I do get in it's all up to me to stay in!! Can't wait for the weekend to end!!

02-22-2012, 10:48 PM
Good luck!!