Interviewing For A Position as a Professional Chef

So you’ve decided you want to work in a restaurant, and even decided on a position and applied for jobs. You’ve been called for an interview. Now what? Interviewing for a restaurant position is not quite the same as interviewing for a position in a less creative field such as business.

While you may be asked some of the same questions (What are your strengths/weaknesses etc.), there are some aspects you may not be anticipating, such as a demonstration of your abilities in the form of a practical exam. Yes, you may be required to prove your skills by cooking a meal or dish during an interview. You are usually warned beforehand so that you can prepare, but not always.

What If I Have to Take a Practical Exam? If you are called for an interview and told you will have to prepare something, don’t panic. Usually you will be given the details, such as what you will be required to prepare (or if it is just prep work) and what you’ll need to bring. Sometimes you’ll have to provide your own materials, but often you’ll be doing it in the restaurant kitchen. Remember, if you applied for this job and think you have the ability to do it, you have nothing to worry about. What am I Being Tested On? Besides the taste and quality of your dish, you’re also being tested on your speed and ability to follow directions.

A Head Chef wants to make sure that you have all of the necessary qualities to make it in a busy restaurant kitchen, not just the ability to prepare delicious tasting food. Nervousness is usually taken into account, but if you are super clumsy or messy, serious points will usually be deducted. Safety and sanitation procedures are also going to be tested, so keep this in mind before going in and cooking like you may at home. Clean up spills as you go (or avoid them altogether), wash your hand repeatedly, and be careful not to cross contaminate items such as raw and cooked products. You may be asked questions during the exam, and the interviewers may want you to walk through the steps you’re taking, so be prepared to explain everything as you go if necessary.

What Should I Wear to a Restaurant Interview?

If you are called for an interview and told you will have to do a practical exam, it’s best to wear a full chef’s uniform to the interview, depending on the type of establishment.  This shows your commitment and professionalism, as well as protects you from injury. If you are asked for an interview without the mention of a practical exam, you can wear professional clothing, such as a suit and tie, since often a practical exam is scheduled after an introductory interview. It is not unheard of however to wear a full chef’s uniform to an interview for cooking job; just take care that it is clean, pressed and looks professional. If you do not have a chef’s jacket, a plain white one can be purchased inexpensively  at a uniform store for just this purpose.

Unless your jacket has the logo of the school or institution you attended, it’s not advised that you wear a jacket with the logo of another restaurant or food service operation. Other than practical exams, standard interview rules apply for restaurant jobs as well. Show up on time, bring a copy of your resume, and answer the questions to the best of your abilities. If you treat the interviewer with professionalism and respect and can demonstrate your skills and abilities, you should have no problem breaking your way into the restaurant industry.

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