Here's the thing about being a chef: it's a job. Of course you need a passion for food and a certain degree of creativity, but at some point you're also going to have to pay your bills. And chefs, like all other professionals, have to go through the interview process before landing a job. Here are some of the most common chef interview questions you can expect to field during those interviews.
How do I prepare for a chef interview?
Research is an important part of preparing to answer chef interview questions. Feel familiar and comfortable with the menu and any signature dishes or regional cuisine the restaurant offers. Ideally, you'll be applying to a position because you admire the restaurant, but even if this is just a stepping stone position for you, knowing as much as you can will still help you do well during your interview.
Understanding the restaurant and the position to which you're applying will build your confidence and help you craft answers to interview questions in a way tailored to this particular job. You'll also feel able to field any other questions in a professional and knowledgeable way.
What are the qualities of a good chef?
- Having the ability to work in high stress, fast-paced environments
- Organized and detail-oriented
- Passionate about food
- Creative when it comes to menu planning and creating new dishes
- Physically able to work long, busy hours on your feet
- Being a good teammate
- Being a good leader as a head chef
Top 10 chef interview questions and tips on how to answer.
1. So, tell me about yourself.
This can lead the way in most interviews, and it can also leave many of us struggling with just what to say. Practice this ahead of time and focus on a brief summary of your experience, your goals moving forward and why you're interviewing for this position. You'll probably have a chance to expand on each point you make, so keep this brief.
2. What kind of experience do you have?
From dishwasher to saucier, no experience is too small to mention here as long as it's pertinent to your goal (showing yourself as a strong, qualified candidate) and doesn't take too long. This is just an opportunity to expand on the basic information on your resume and talk about which positions you excelled at and enjoyed the most.
3. What kind of leader are you?
A head chef is the boss of the kitchen, and your employer will put a lot of trust in you by letting you run the heart of their business. She needs to get a feel for you and your leadership style, so be honest. If your thoughts fit with her idea of what she wants, awesome. If not, this job isn't right for you.
4. Tell me about a workplace conflict and how you resolved it.
An owner wants to get a sense of your leadership style but will also want to know what kind of a team member you are if you're a younger chef. Preparing for this question means you'll have a good example at the forefront of your mind. Use broad strokes when describing the situation, don't talk badly about anyone involved and focus on your thought process and actions.
5. What chefs and cuisines inspire you?
An employer is going to want to know where your passions are. It may be important to her that your aesthetics synch up with hers since your inspirations will influence the kinds of dishes you want to produce. Be honest about what you love, but note that you're always open to learning and growing as well.
6. What made you apply for this position?
You can expand on what you mentioned when you introduced yourself. Maybe this is the chance to be a head chef or study under one who inspires you. Maybe you're simply looking to move up or grow your experiences. Whatever answer you give, make sure it's positive and not at all about money or really, really needing a job (even if that's true).
7. If you were planning a new menu for me, what would it look like?
This question could be about wanting to see some of your creativity, but it's also crucial that you show you understand the underlying approach to the current menu and food philosophy of the restaurant. Have some thoughts prepared on how you might build on and expand that philosophy. If you're applying as head chef, don't be afraid to spend some time answering. Make it clear, however, that you're flexible enough to collaborate if the owner likes to be really involved in menu planning.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years or 10?
Do you aspire to open your own restaurant or continue to work your way up to head chef somewhere, or are you looking for somewhere semi-permanent to work long-term? Turnover in the restaurant industry is fairly regular, but when it comes to hiring chefs an owner is probably looking for some stability. Be honest about your goals and why you feel this position will help you attain them.
9. Why are you leaving your current position?
Tread carefully. If you're unhappy with where you're working right, now then the urge to purge all your complaints will be strong. But maintain your professionalism and couch your unhappiness in terms of wanting to grow, challenge yourself and move forward. If you were fired, find a way to talk about it positively. Maybe you learned a lot, but ultimately, the fit wasn't right. Don't paint yourself as the victim or as someone difficult to work with.
10. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Some version of this should be an expected chef interview question. Obviously, we all have both, and just as obviously, it's pretty easy to talk about our strengths. What the owner will likely be more interested in is how you talk about your weaknesses in a professional way. If you're easily annoyed by slackers, try saying that your strong work ethics means you often outpace those around you, and the frustration and impatience this causes is something you're working on. Show a weakness in a positive way by explaining where it comes from and acknowledging that you're aware of and working on it.