Three things play a major role on your succeed in the interview for a position of a chef. First one, your references from previous jobs, something that demonstrates that you are no beginner in the field. Second, your ability to convince the hiring managers about your cooking skills (either with your culinary degree, or with practical presentation of your skills in an interview, cooking something on site). And the last one are your answers to their questions, targeting mostly your ability to supervise and lead other kitchen staff, and your motivation and attitude to work.

I cannot help you with your references or cooking skills, but I can help you with your interview answers. Let’s have a look at 10 questions you may commonly face, and how you should answer them in order to walk away with a new job.

 

Why do you want to work as a chef here?

Try to tell them something that makes sense for their place. For example, if it is an Italian restaurant, you can say that you are really good in cooking Italian dishes, and believe that you’ll be able to improve their menu, and make their place even better for their guests.

You can also say that you dined at the place and see some room for improvement in the way the dishes are cooked and presented, and would love to make things better on that end. Another alternative is to praise them: if they have great reputation, you can say that every cook would be proud to work for them, and that you simply had to apply once you saw the job opening.

 

How do you imagine a typical day in work?

Your answer should be as close to reality as possible. Think for a moment about the size of the restaurant, and estimate the number of dishes they prepare each day. How many assistant chefs and cooks work at the place? Will you have responsibility for supervising the processes the kitchen, or will you be actively involved in preparing the daily menu?

After learning more about the place, you should understand what your role will be. One way or another, show them that you like to be busy in work, and do not mind participating in the process of cooking the food.

You can add other duties to the mix, such as supervising the purchasing process (to ensure the quality of ingredients), designing the menu, teaching and instructing assistant chefs, talking to VIP guests and taking pictures with them, etc.

cook at work, choping something with a knife

Your assistant and one of the cooks, actually the only one on the shift, did not come to work. They had a car crash and are in hospital, with light injuries. What will you do?

This questions tests  your attitude. Nowadays, people are often sick, and it may easily happen that you find yourself in work without any assistants. Show the interviewers that you won’t panic, and that you do not mind stepping out of your comfort zone, and start cooking the basic daily dishes.

You can also suggest that you would instruct one of the kitchen assistants to help with cooking the “easiest” dishes, and basically will do your best to keep the restaurant operational, and guests satisfied. Suggesting to call a cook from another shift and beg them to come to work is also an option…

May also interest you: Restaurant interview questions.

 

One of your assistant is not listening to you, and they prepare the dishes in their own way. But we can not afford to terminate their contract, because it is hard to find any decent cooks in the city. What will you do?

Another tricky question. I would say you have a few options for a good answer. One is saying that you will assign different duties to the particular cook, and let them cook only dishes they prepare in a right way, in accordance to your suggestions and the menu of the restaurant.

Second one is having a one-on-one meeting with them, after work, and clearly explaining them the philosophy of the restaurant and why you do things the way you do, in a friendly way. If you go for this answer, you can say that you experienced similar situation in your last job, and the speech worked, and the assistant cook started listening to you. Third option is simply saying that you would ask the restaurant manager for help. You are there for preparing the best menu and spearheading the operation in the kitchen. Manager should take care of the problems with staff…

 

How do you ensure that your dishes stay up to date, and reflect the desires and wishes of the customers of the restaurant?

Try to show proactive approach to work. They should feel that learning never stops for you, and that you constantly work on improving your cooking and kitchen management skills.

You can say that you plan to talk to guests, and ask them about their feedback on the taste and quality of food, and incorporate their feedback in your work.

You can also mention that you like to innovate the menu regularly, watch the latest trends, and follow the most famous chefs in the country, trying to get some inspiration from them.

 

How long do you want to work here? / Where do you see yourself in five years time?

You do not have to stick to your promises from the job interview, and you will have a contract with a standard notice period. When you decide to leave, you will be able to leave. 

However, once you interview for the job, you should try to convince them that you imagine spending a good part of your professional career working in their restaurant. You can even say that it takes time until one really understands the place and the customers, and leaves his mark in the restaurant–and therefor you prefer to work for one employer, for a longer period of time.

chef is preparing some dishes on wooded plates

Can you imagine working twelve hours a day?

One of the drawbacks of the job of a chef are the irregular and long working hours. You may have to work on weekends, or twelve hours a day, or even more. This is just the nature of the job, and you should count with it (or apply for another job).

Basically you should say that you count with working long shifts. You can also narrate your experience from previous jobs you had in other restaurants, and the long hours you worked, and how you managed to maintain your concentration and quality of work during a long shift.

 

What is your most, and less favorite dish to prepare?

I can’t advice you much in this case. Just try to stay close to the menu of the restaurant. For example, if it is a Mexican restaurant, it would be a mistake to say that you do not like preparing vegetarian burritos.

You can also add something to your answer, saying that you always try to improve on your work, and actually like to prepare dishes you somehow struggle with, simply to get better in preparing them.

 

What are your salary expectations?

You do not have to be modest in your expectations. Restaurants struggle to hire quality chefs, and they are willing to (or basically have to) pay you extra–unless they want to see you working for one of their competitors.

But you should explain why you want to earn a certain sum of money. For example, you can refer to average salary statistics from a reputable website, or say how much you earned in your last job, and that you want to stay at least at the same level…

 

Final thoughts, next steps

You have chosen a great career. Restaurants “fight” for good cooks, and unless you apply for a job with one of the top notch places in your country/city, they will do their best to hire you–and won’t torture you with too many questions in an interview.

Show right attitude to work and right motivation with your interview answers, and convince them about your cooking and kitchen management skills. Once you do it, they will hire you. And they will pay you well…

We wish you good luck!

Special Tip: Want to practice your interview answers later? Download the list of questions in a one-page long PDF, and practice anytime you want:

chef interview questions, PDF

 

May also interest you:

  • Work portfolio for an interview – Learn how to prepare a selection of your best works (dishes), and how to use it to show the interviewers the value you can bring to their team.
  • Restaurant interview questions – Article that describes general questions you may get in a smaller restaurant, applying for any kind of job with them.
  • Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication? Learn how to “tell” the right things with your gestures.
Matthew Chulaw
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