The interviewer wants to be assured that you are able to create and maintain strong vendor relationships. When you have strong relationships with your vendors, you are able to take advantage of great pricing, have first dibs on new specials, and even promotional product. Talk about your experience developing vendor relationships and if you'd like, you can even offer up a vendor reference!
"I have 9 years experience working directly with vendors. My reputation is strong among local vendors and I understand the importance of keeping strong working relationships with them. If you would like, I have a great reference with XYZ and they would be happy to speak about our relationship and how it's developed over the years."
The interviewer wants to see that you are able to give suggestions; however, they are not asking you to pick apart their existing menu. Show that you have researched their menu and offer a couple of ideas that would be enticing to them. The suggestions could be through current trends in cuisine, or perhaps some cost savings. Be sure to compliment the restaurant on what they are doing right!
"I like many facets of your menu. It's creative and on trend. If I could make any changes to your menu I would make a couple of ingredient changes that are even more on trend right now. I also see opportunity for potential cost savings on a couple of your menu items."
The interviewer wants to know you are enthusiastic about their organization. Express how keen you are by doing your research on their restaurant's history, values, goals, competition, and by examining their internal culture and what makes them unique. To really impress the interviewer, pay special attention to their social media profiles for unique information that inspires you to work for them.
The interviewer would like to know what resources you use for keeping up with new industry trends. The culinary world moves fast and they need to know that you understand the importance of offering trendy menu items in such a competitive business landscape. It's always a great idea to ask the interviewer if they have preferred resources as well. This is an opportunity to strike up a meaningful conversation.
"I use a variety of resources to keep up with new food trends. My favorite website is bonappetit.com. I follow multiple famous food bloggers on Instagram and I also have a Google alert set on my phone for a few different culinary related keywords. What are your preferred resources for staying on top of food trends?"
The interviewer is interested in knowing a bit more about you! This question is designed for them to understand what motivated you to start a career as a Chef. Understanding your motivation and sources of inspiration will help your employer to keep you engaged, even on the toughest days.
"I have been cooking for my family since the age of 10. My parents worked and I was the oldest of 4 kids. Over the years I began to realize that I had a very strong flair for creativity and understanding complex flavors. I watched a lot of cooking shows and would say that my favorite chef of all time is Julia Child. French cuisine is so difficult to master and she truly made it an art. I hope to always bring that much enthusiasm to this career."
The interviewer is looking for specific numbers in regards to your leadership experience. Discuss the amount of people you are accustomed to leading but also be sure to include some of your biggest leadership wins. That could be increasing employee retention, or mentoring new culinary grads.
"In my current position, I am responsible for leading a team of 12 kitchen staff. I have led teams of 2, up to 25, in previous roles. I have also been asked to mentor one student per semester, from our local culinary school. I really enjoy being a leader and do take the responsibility seriously. Since starting in my current role, our employee retention has increased by 25%. I am really proud of this accomplishment."
The interviewer would like to know the types of cuisine that you enjoy making the most. Perhaps your favorite dish changes from time to time. Maybe it's a timeless family recipe. Be sure to bring passion to your reply!
"My favorite dish to make has been my favorite dish to eat, since I was a child. It's my grandmother's Quenelles de Brochet. It's a dish that warms your belly and it brings strong feelings of nostalgia for me."
It always puts a little bit of fire under the hiring manager if they are aware that you are actively looking for a new position. Tell the interviewer about your search so far.
"I am keeping an eye out for viable positions. Although I am not in final stages with any other company, I am actively seeking a new position."
A kitchen environment can be stressful! The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of motivating your kitchen staff, even on really tough days. Offering a listening ear or providing words of encouragement can make a world of difference to your staff. Sometimes, simply being a positive influence and showing up consistently can also make a difference. If you have worked in a leadership role, think of ways you helped set clear goals or helped individuals cultivate a new skill. Reflect on your experience and share some ways that you have helped encourage others to keep up the good work!
"I motivate my kitchen staff by coming to work with an exceptional attitude every day. I won't allow anyone's bad mood to let me down. That influence alone has helped many of my staff get through their day on a more positive note."
Before your interview, make sure you have a start date in mind for the new employer. Whether you need to give two weeks to your current position, or are unemployed and can start right away, be prepared with an affirmative answer. If you are currently working, you should always show professionalism by offering 2 weeks' notice to your current employer. No hiring manager is ever impressed when they hear "I can quit my job today and start tomorrow!" Show that you are professional and reliable in all situations.
"I can quit my job today and start tomorrow!"
If you can't think of ways that you are unique, ask a few friends or family members what they feel sets you apart from other people. Their observations may help you understand how you are perceived. Perhaps you already know what sets you apart! This could include any industry accolades, special achievements, additional industry related training, a second language, or how involved you are in the community. Don't be afraid to brag about yourself a bit. In an interview, you are your strongest advocate.
"You should hire me because I am unlike anyone else you have interviewed before. When I started with my current company, I was the youngest chef they had ever hired. That didn't stop me from becoming the #1 performing chef through all of their 13 locations. I am dedicated to my craft, and engaged in this industry to the point where I commit myself to taking at least one cuisine related workshop every quarter. I am a competitive achiever. You won't be disappointed when you hire me."
Most people have had a job that they don't particularly love. Think about your least favorite job and break down for the interviewer what made it so tiresome. Perhaps the responsibilities were mundane or the co-workers were unfriendly. Discuss with the interviewer what made the job so difficult, and what you did to make it better for yourself. The interviewer wants to see that you are proactive in situations like this rather than just giving up and quitting.
"Many years ago, I worked as a waitress at a local sports bar. I liked the job because of the customers, but I didn't feel appreciated by my boss. It was discouraging because he was so negative, even during the busiest and most challenging shifts. I did my best and worked hard, but moved on when I had the opportunity. I learned that having a boss who is encouraging and motivating can make such a world of difference!"
If you are in a management type of role, you will often be asked to keep your eyes open for cost-saving opportunities. Assure the interviewer that you are capable of understanding the importance of this practice and give a strong example of a time when you have done so.
"I have been able to present cost-cutting suggestions many times to my previous employer. The one that I feel had the biggest impact was when I made a suggestion for additional warehouse staff. We had 3 various shifts and still an average of 100 hours of overtime per week. I presented to my employer that we hire one more warehouse employee for each shift, keeping the hours to just 120 regular vs 100 hours of overtime pay (@1.5x) This recommendation saved the company $31,000 per year. They implemented this change across 15 warehouses the following year, amounting to nearly half a million dollars in savings per year."
You will likely face change in your career from time to time. Assure the interviewer that you are able to adapt to large changes in a professional manner.
"The biggest change that I have faced in my career so far would be when my previous company went through a major merger. We had to adapt to new processes and management which was quite challenging. In the end it worked out well for the company, in a financial perspective, so the changes were well worth the challenges we faced initially."
The interviewer would like to know if you are creative by nature. As a Chef, your answer should be that you are a creative person. Depending on the restaurant, in which you should research beforehand. Examine how unique their dishes are. This will help you formulate your answer.
"Yes, I think being creative is part of the job as a Chef. That is one of the reasons why I became a chef. I enjoy mixing a variety of items and trying to create that unique pairing which really sets a dish off. This is in part, what attracted me to your restaurant. "
What does success mean to you? Tell the interviewer how you see success and be sure to tie your answer into the success that you plan to bring to this particular position, should you be offered the role.
"I define success by my ability to reach the goals that are set out for me. On a personal level, the things I wish to achieve in my life. On a work level, the targets that are set out for me as well as the professional development that I seek."
Do you feel that you should be paid based on tenure, or results? Discuss this with the interviewer and back your answer with an example, if possible.
"I feel that employees should be paid, and rewarded, based on their performance. A new employee would be greatly motivated through being rewarded for performance and it encourages a healthy competition with tenured employees."
The interviewer wants to know how you overcome challenges in a team environment. They want to see that you persevere, despite being faced with teamwork challenges. Give an example of a time when communication became an issue; perhaps due to personality differences or a misunderstanding when it came to the scope of the project. Be sure to express to the interviewer how the communication issues affected the team, and how you overcame those communication challenges.
"I recently worked on a team project focused on our business growth analysis. Each person on the team was asked to analyze a different set of data. In the end, we came together to discuss the results but couldn't seem to come to an agreement. We were struggling to listen to each person's opinion on their findings. I suggested we give each person a chance to talk through their findings, uninterrupted. It seemed to help us but I did learn that there can be major challenges when a team is filled with many aggressive personalities."
This answer can vary based on experience. Think about your personality and how you present your ideas to someone else, make sure you avoid words such as pushy, and forceful. Do you present facts and statistics to your managers and explain the results from your research? Do you influence them by coming up with inspirational menu concepts?
"When I would like others to see my way, I am sure to carefully lay out the ways that my idea will benefit them. I review those reasons, collect agreement from them, and then close them on the idea by having them verbally agree that it's the soundest decision or choice."
The best way to discuss your salary expectations are to use your current earnings as an example. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.
"Currently, I earn a base salary of $60,000 per year plus a potential annual bonus based on cost savings. Last year my earnings were $68,000 and I would like to stay in the same range or slightly higher."
Sometimes the greatest workplace challenge is a difficult task that puts you outside of your comfort zone. It could be something that requires skills you haven't mastered yet or qualities where you not the strongest. Explain to the interviewer why your example is challenging, but be sure to spend more time highlighting the actions you took to overcome the challenge.
"The most challenging aspect of my last job was troubleshooting some of the older kitchen equipment we worked with. We needed some serious upgrades, but they weren't in the budget. Learning how to work around this problem was quite a challenge, but I learned how by referring to old manuals and online forums. I ended up fixing a lot of the equipment myself."
We all have room for improvement! The interviewer wants to see that you are the type of chef who is dedicated to professional growth. Give an example of a skill that you are working on. Be sure to talk about how your new and improved skills will benefit your potential new employer.
"As a chef, I am always working on my knife skills! Another thing that I am working on continually improving are my inventory control skills. I am currently taking an online course related to inventory control. It's been very helpful and I look forward to bringing my new knowledge to your restaurant."
We all like to be recognized in some way for our accomplishments in the workplace. Share with the interviewer how you would like to be recognized for your hard work. Through gifts? Financial perks? Public recognition? Kind words? Title promotions?
"I am very much an over-achiever and find that the best way for me to be recognized for a job well done is to be given words of kindness and recognition. I am easily encouraged and the best reward for me is to know that my hard work is being noticed."
The role of a chef is notoriously stressful! Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with setbacks in the workplace.
"Experiencing a setback is always disappointing, and can be a bit disheartening, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback I will take a few moments to debrief with my team and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on! As a chef, my environment is much too busy to spend time dwelling on setbacks."
Everyone has had a misstep in their career at one point or another. Perhaps you took a job with a restaurant who was not as reputable as you originally believed. Maybe you took a role that was 'oversold' to you. Or, maybe you declined an opportunity that you now regret passing on. The key to a great answer is to discuss what you did to correct the misstep.
"Last year, I was offered an executive chef position that would have offered me the leadership experience I was looking for. Unfortunately, I turned down the offer in fear that I was not yet ready for the responsibility of being a leader to so many people. My lack of confidence in myself got in the way. I recognized that lack of confidence in myself and changed turned it around by attending 3 leadership workshops over the next year. Now I am bursting with confidence and am ready to take on this executive chef role with your organization."
Before answering scheduling questions, it's important to be clear on the interviewer's expectations. If you haven't had a chance to clarify their scheduling needs, now would be the perfect time to ask! Consider asking, 'What are the scheduling expectations for this position?' If they expect you to work 12 hour days, it would be important for you to know that before you respond with, 'Absolutely! No problem!' You want to be sure that you can meet their expectations. If it turns out their schedule expectations won't work for you, think about what you CAN offer and see if you can meet in the middle. It's much better to discuss these things in an interview than for you to commit to a schedule that won't work for you.
"I am available for full time work, preferably Thursday through Monday, 8 hour days. I am happy to be a team player and work some overtime, as required. Will these hours meet your expectations?"
One of the toughest parts of communication can be delivering bad news to people that you work with and care about. Whether it is delivering a less than positive work review or terminating someone - it doesn't come easy. Assure the interviewer that you are able to handle this type of task in a clear, concise, and professional manner.
"I certainly do not enjoy communicating bad news to a co-worker but I do have experience in doing so. When this type of task is required of me, I make sure to practice empathy. Truth is always key, so I will be honest and clear when communicating the news. For instance, if I am to terminate someone's employment I will not sugar coat the reasons why. It's best they know so that they can learn from the experience."
Personality and character are two very different things. The interviewer is looking for more information on your personal traits vs. your integrity. This would include buzz words such as introverted, energetic, and confident.
"I would describe my personality as approachable, positive, and determined. I believe that, if asked, my current team would say the same about me."
A part of being a diligent employee is to ensure that you are always on time and present when expected. It's great to even be 10 minutes early rather than just showing up right on the dot. Talk to the interviewer about your attendance.
"I had zero unexcused absences last year. In total, I took 12 vacation days out of my 15 allotted days. I was sick just 2 and those were accompanied by a note from my Doctor. Once I was late due to a terrible snow storm and I always try to be 10 minutes early for my shift."
A job search isn't just a one sided hunt. You must also feel as though this is a good fit for yourself. Tell the interviewer what your ideal employer looks like. Be specific and be sure to keep the conversation positive. Avoid speaking poorly of any previous managers or organizations.
"My ideal employer is one that brings charisma and passion to their work. I work best with organizations who have a penchant for continuous learning and promote their employees based on performance."
The interviewer wants to see that you have a genuine passion for leadership. Perhaps you are a people person who loves to motivate and encourage your team members. Maybe you enjoy helping others identify their strengths. Perhaps you thrive on helping others work towards accomplishing their professional goals. Whatever you enjoy most, be sure to tell the interviewer that you plan to be a passionate leader with their organization.
"I love being a leader! If I had to choose one aspect that made leadership the most rewarding, it would be the fact that I can change someone's life or career path by guiding and encouraging them. I am really excited to come on board as an experience chef, and have the opportunity to be a leader for you at the same time."
If money was no object, what kind of business would you start? The interviewer will be able to learn something new and unique about you through this question. Avoid answers that would include building a business that competes with their restaurant, for instance.
"If I had $50,000 to build my own business I would open up a community center in my neighborhood that offered inexpensive childcare, junior chef style cooking classes, and other life skills programs. I am passionate about volunteering and see a strong need in those particular areas within my community."
The interviewer wants to know that you can diffuse a tense situation if needed. They also want to see a bit more of your personality! Stress and fast-paced work environments can cause people to feel overwhelmed and sometimes even angry or upset. Think of a time when you took a much more lighthearted approach to diffuse a tense situation.
"I recall a day last month when our team was focused on solving a serious technical error with our system. It got to the point where a few members of the team were so frustrated they were getting angry with each other. I stepped out to grab some coffees from the shop next door. When I returned I said 'Hot coffee to make us all feel warm and fuzzy again!' Everyone laughed and took a break from what they were doing. It helped the team relax after so much tension."
A chef is a culinary expert. In professional settings such as restaurant and cafe kitchens, they are in charge of the kitchen and kitchen staff oversee the food preparation. Chefs are responsible for every aspect of the kitchen, from planning menus, developing recipes and creating visually appealing presentations to checking the freshness of supplies and supervising other kitchen staff.
Formal training to become a chef is available through culinary arts schools, technical schools, 4-year degree colleges and community colleges. Chefs must have strong leadership, communication, aesthetic, and business skills. They must also be highly creative and have a keen sense of taste and smell to create recipes and menus that their patrons enjoy. Knowledge of sanitary practices in the kitchen, food preservation and safety protocol related to using sharp and hot equipment in the kitchen is crucial.
Why do you want to be a chef? Do you have what it takes to be an outstanding chef? Are you familiar with a wide range of cuisines or do you specialize in any one specific cuisine? These are some of the questions that are typically asked at interviews held to hire chefs. To see more such questions, go to Mock Questions.