Chef Interview Questions
Chefs are leaders in the culinary field, acting as managers to the kitchen staff, overseeing food preparation and ensuring every dish meets your restaurant’s standards. Some chefs also plan menus that become trademarks of their establishment. The Chef you hire will bring your restaurant to life; they are responsible for transforming words on a menu into delicious meals and memorable experiences for your customers.
A Chef may or may not have attended culinary school, but they should have significant experience working in kitchens. A Chef should have a wide range of culinary skills on top of exemplary managerial expertise. Candidates should be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and be capable of meeting the physical demand of the job, such as standing on their feet for long periods of time.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests, and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Chef interview questions to help you get started:
1. Tell me a bit about your experience in the food industry?
What you want to hear: Chefs have spent years training in kitchens; some may have attended culinary school while others have learned entirely through work experience. Many start off as short-order or line cooks, working their way through the ranks and letting their passion for cooking propel them into higher career ambitions.
Red flag: A Chef must act as a manager, which means they need to have extensive experience not only working for a chef but in a kitchen. Understanding how one works from a first-hand perspective will give a candidate the necessary knowledge to keep everything in line. Those who have never worked as a Chef or have restaurant experience are not suitable for the role.
2. What type of cuisine do you make best, and why?
What you want to hear: Chefs need to have experience preparing a variety of different cuisines; not only does this help improve their skills, but it also enables them to infuse traditional concepts with new ideas. However, every chef has their favorite, and this is a good question to start off a chef interview. Listen for their passion, explanation and any correlation to the type of meals they would prepare for your establishment.
Red flag: Having passion for the craft and expressing enough interest to have a favorite or signature dish is crucial to making sure that the candidate will provide top-tier service to you and your customers. If a candidate cannot name a dish or a reason for enjoying a dish that they make regularly, they may lack interest and could end up making oversights when preparing cuisines or fail to find innovation in their daily tasks, which could impact your overall business.
3. Being a Chef means working hours most people find inconvenient. How do you maintain a balance in your life?
What you want to hear: Many Chefs are married to their work; they spend the majority of their time in the kitchen, and they are willing to make the sacrifice if it means doing what they love. However, it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which reduces stress and protects a Chef’s mental health.
Red flag: A candidate who does not make time for themselves is at a high risk of burnout. It’s easy for chefs to become overworked, and elevated stress levels often lead to poor communication, a shorter temper and conflict between staff members. As one of the leading professionals in your establishment, a Chef must be able to model balance and composure at all times.
4. What measures do you take to ensure proper sanitation and food safety?
What you want to hear: Chefs must understand the various elements of kitchen sanitation measures and the role of personal hygiene. Enduring employees always wash their hands, cover cuts, and wear the appropriate attire, which are great ways to reduce exposure. Equipment should also be washed and sanitized daily. Food safety measures such as stock rotation and temperature control can prevent bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses. HACCP-certified candidates are a huge bonus.
Red flag: If a candidate does not cover the three core elements of personal hygiene, equipment and kitchen maintenance, then they could jeopardize employees’ and customers’ health. Sanitary practices should always be top-priority to a Chef and their staff.
5. How do you handle any tension between staff members?
What you want to hear: Sometimes, a personal conflict can arise and impact the entire kitchen. A Chef must be able to keep everything on time without ignoring any unresolved issues between employees. The candidate should list a variety of conflict resolution skills while stressing the importance of maintaining food quality and output.
Red flag: A Chef may say that they don’t tolerate any type of conflict in their kitchen, but this type of approach usually only leaves to greater problems down the line. Everyone in the kitchen has to respect one another and work together; candidates who ignore or intimidate staff members will not cultivate a healthy work environment.
6. What is your favorite item on our menu?
What you want to hear: Chefs love any opportunity to talk about food, and they should have researched your menu prior to the interview. Chef interview questions like this can create a more conversational atmosphere that showcases a candidate’s personality better. As they talk about their favorite dish, listen closely to how they describe it. Strong candidates will focus on the taste, ingredients and flavor nuances.
7. How do you manage the kitchen’s budget?
What you want to hear: Staying on top of kitchen expenses is important, and a Chef has to be fully aware of how much they need to operate and when they’re stretching the restaurant’s limits. Monitoring inventory, keeping a spreadsheet and striving to use 100 percent of materials can reduce waste and promote financial strength.
Red flag: A candidate who does not know how to monitor a kitchen’s budget could be a liability to the restaurant. Since the majority of costs go toward food and supplies, the Chef must always be fully aware of how much they’re spending and how much they’ll need to avoid shortages or low stock.
8. What is the worst meal you’ve ever made?
What you want to hear: Humility can be difficult for many Chefs who invest their hearts into their work. But failure happens to everyone, and a promising candidate will be able to describe their greatest culinary disaster with a sense of humor. They should also explain how the experience helped them improve their skills.
9. What are some of your career goals for the next five years?
What you want to hear: A Chef should strive to improve their skills and help their restaurant grow. Some may even aspire to open their own restaurants someday. Listen for passion and commitment to the craft.
Red flag: A lack of career ambition makes a person more likely to suffer from job dissatisfaction. Without genuine commitment and a desire to grow, they eventually become bored and are likely to stagnate or ultimately resigns.
10. What chefs do you admire the most?
What you want to hear: Chefs who stay current with industry trends are likely to bring new ideas into your kitchen. They can help evolve menus, keep customers satisfied and help create recipes that are truly authentic. Chefs may admire others for their work ethic, experimentation or achievements in the field.
Red flag: A Chef who cannot name other notable figures in their industry is likely out of touch with trends that could benefit your restaurant. Continued education, ambition and genuine enthusiasm for the profession are important qualities you won’t want to overlook in your interview.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Chef position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Have worked a variety of roles in the culinary field.
- Match their culinary abilities with business knowledge.
- Project a natural air of confidence.
- Are active listeners and team players.