If you are interested in a career in the culinary arts and want to be an executive chef someday, you’re probably curious about the whole selection process that goes into hiring one. Or if you’ve already landed an interview for a role as an executive chef, then you should definitely want to know what to expect when you walk in there. Don’t worry, we have got you covered. We bring you here a collection of broad questions that you can expect during an interview for a job as an executive chef. Whether you’ve got an interview lined up or if you’re just curious, you will get a good idea of what you are going to get. Let’s check it out. Here we will see about Executive Chef Interview Questions
Executive Chef Interview Questions
An Executive Chef has quite a diverse list of job duties. The list includes managing the daily operations of kitchens in restaurants or hotels, designing the menu, training and supervising the kitchen staff, and ensuring an overall high-quality, cost-effective way of coming up with and delivering palatable products. Sometimes, executive chefs are consulted during the hiring process of other junior chefs and staff. An executive chef is basically in charge of seeing how things are run in a culinary establishment, and a good one should be able to build and maintain a good team of staff members, design an attractive menu keeping in mind the budget constraints, cuisine choice and ambiance of the establishment they work with. Such a person will be responsible for the ultimate experience that is offered to the customers. Restaurants and hotels look for individuals with strong leadership and management skills with resourceful and creative thinking and the ability to function calmly in a high-pressure environment in their executive chefs. This is why an interview for that job will be conducted in a way so as to test the candidate if they possess these skills. The following are the possible questions that a candidate may face:
What attracted you to this career?
Since an executive chef has to handle a lot of responsibility, a restaurant would like them to be highly motivated in their job. The purpose of this question is to find out whether the candidate is motivated enough and whether they can invest the necessary amount of dedication in the job. Overtly simple answers such as loving to cook and wanting good pay will not cut much ice with the interviewer. The candidate needs to show that really wants this particular job, and it is advisable to talk about how the candidate found the requirements of that job suitable for them. Also, a small personal story about how the candidate was inspired by someone else to take up this career, and how successfully curating and serving up the perfect menu makes them happy would impress the interviewer. Wanting to serve customers well is also a good addition.
What changes would you implement in our establishment?
The interviewer wants to check if the candidate is motivated enough for the job. A serious candidate will do some background research regarding the establishment they have applied to and will have a basic idea of what they like about it and what they don’t. Also, an experienced candidate will know what the customers will want, and therefore should be able to give an answer detailing how they would change the menu or alter the ambiance and the working style of the staff in order to provide a better experience for the customers. We recommend that the candidate read up on the establishment from their website before appearing for the interview, as this is a very common question.
How would you consider food costs while creating the menu?
A restaurant will not want to hire an extravagant executive chef who puts an unnecessary amount of resources into the menu just to please the customers. Too much investment in the menu can force the establishment into compromising on other factors, such as salary cuts for the staff and dilution of ambiance and any possible entertainment, measures that would make everybody unhappy. An experienced chef would know how to properly utilize available ingredients within a given budget to design a menu that is both attractive and palatable. While offering expensive options is not a bad thing, it is important to understand that such options are not ordered by everyone, and thus the trick is to do a good balancing act, which would attract a high number of median customers.
What are some of the best food vendors you have worked with?
While this may seem like a simple technical question, its purpose goes a little deeper. A chef with adequate experience will have worked with enough food vendors to know which are good and can be trusted, and can even recommend some to an establishment based on their needs. A good answer to this question would require the candidate to know what the needs of the establishment are, and then make a briefcase for each individual vendor based on their offerings. Making general recommendations are also welcome, such as stating that a particular vendor always delivers fresh vegetables, but making specific mentions would give the idea that the candidate knows what they are talking about. Also, a good chef should know the names of all the major regional food vendors by the time they wish to be an executive chef, so this is a test to see if the candidate fits that bill.
How do you change your menu seasonally?
A competent chef will be aware that keeping the same menu throughout the year will not attract a lot of customers. Seasonal changes will be more palatable to a larger crowd and will draw in more numbers who want more variety in their menu. A good chef will also know which ingredients are best for every season and are available fresh during that time and will design a menu accordingly. Plus, customers tend to change their preferences based on the weather. For example, very few people would enjoy a heavy steak dinner on a hot summer night, a lighter meal with white meat or fish with fresh fruit as a dessert would be more in demand. A candidate who can deliver a convincing answer keeping in mind all these factors would impress the interviewer.
What steps do you take to ensure the quality of the food that is produced in your kitchen?
It would be a good idea to read up on the quality control measures already in place at the establishment the candidate has applied to. The interviewer would like to know that the executive chef they hire can live up to their standards first. Thereafter, the candidate may talk about more measures which they believe ought to be implemented to ensure that the food quality is top-notch. A good chef should be aware of the local hygiene standards in the area and give an answer which satisfies and surpasses them significantly. However, one must remember to be realistic. Suggesting ideas that are way out of the establishment’s budget would give the idea that the candidate has not done their homework regarding the establishment’s specifications.
What are your views on ingredient substitutions requested by customers?
A competent and experienced chef will be confident about their methods and would generally prefer to stick to them. However, sometimes customers tend to want something unique, especially in posh establishments, and refusing them can lead to discontentment among the customer base, something no establishment wants. Therefore, a candidate should walk the line of moderation on this point, talking about how they don’t like compromising with their general recipes but are willing to change a few factors such as the level of spice, sweetness, etc, to conform to the tastes of the customers. Also, a good chef should know about what to do in case of a customer having an allergy to a particular ingredient or a special diet and should be able to state what they would substitute the allergen ingredient within that case, or whether at all.
How would you handle a disappointed customer?
This would be a good time to talk about any past experience the candidate has in dealing with difficult customers, as someone with experience would know what to do in a tough situation, and be an asset to the establishment. Usually, simply apologizing and offering to change their order pacifies a disappointed customer, but sometimes a customer can be especially difficult. Restaurants don’t like any altercations on their premises, which is why they look for executive chefs who can coolly handle such situations and reach a compromise that doesn’t disturb other customers. Waiters and junior staff tend to be young and inexperienced, which is why the executive chef may have to step in from time to time.
What qualities do you look for in your kitchen staff?
Since an executive chef is involved in the hiring process for the kitchen staff, their opinion and requirements are of high importance. A good candidate should be able to confidently list the qualities they expect to see in their staff. A manager who knows what they want is easy to work with. However, a candidate who is too picky in their demands will not be favored, for they might be difficult to work with in the future. This question also allows the interviewer in the hiring philosophy of the candidate’s match with theirs.
Describe your style of working and management.
The purpose of this question is manifold. The interviewer wants to know whether the candidate is someone who can get things done. A good candidate should be able to answer by keeping in mind some aspects of the job, such as letting go of underperforming employees to managing multicultural teams in a way that everyone feels comfortable. A good executive chef should not micromanage their staff too much and allow them sufficient creative freedom while monitoring their work closely so that things go as planned. Also, they should be adept at handling conflict within their staff. The establishment likes to hire executive chefs who have things under control without controlling anybody too much.
It’s a tough job, being an executive chef. But the rewards are great, as it allows one to be creative and manage their own team, delivering a wonderful experience for the customer. We wish anybody pursuing this career the very best, and hope this article helps them along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How much experience do I need to be an executive chef?
That varies from establishment to establishment. Larger and posh places want executive chefs with a lot of experience so they can handle a lot of responsibility. Smaller places have lesser requirements.
Does an executive chef have to be involved directly in cooking all the time?
Not really. That’s a job for the cooks. An executive chef is more responsible for curating the menu and managing and instructing the cooks, as far as their culinary responsibilities are concerned.