How to Hire a Chef

3 Chefs standing shoulder to shoulder. 1 in the foreground and 2 in the background. The 2 in the back are silhouettes. Text reads:

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Does your growing business need a chef? If it’s time to expand your menu, roll out new recipes, or bring in a new leader to organize your kitchen’s workflow and cooking processes, consider hiring a chef who is passionate about creating a dining experience customized to your business’s needs and vision.

Understanding the steps behind hiring a chef, including data about candidates looking for chef jobs, salaries and key terms to include in your job description, can help you stand out from the competition to reach and attract qualified candidates.

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Chefs searching for jobs on Indeed*

100,192

job seekers clicked on chef jobs

68,684

resumes from job seekers with chef experience on Indeed

58%

of clicks came from mobile devices

What is the cost of hiring a chef?

  • Common salary in US: $14.90 hourly
  • Typical salaries range from $7.25$33.55 hourly
  • Find more information on Indeed Salary

 

 
 
$7.25
$33.55

*Indeed data (US) – July 2020
 

As of July 2020, chef jobs in the US are very competitive compared to other job markets, with an average of 26 job seekers per chef job.

Why hire a chef?

A talented chef is committed to crafting the finest recipes, refining plate presentation and delighting customers. Dedicated to producing a skilled crew and highly efficient operations, a chef can also serve as a valuable leader by training and mentoring team members.

Contributions of a great chef:

  • Create new recipes based on knowledge of ingredients and cooking methods
  • Oversee kitchen staff and provide instruction regarding meal preparation, cooking and delivering dishes to customers
  • Make responsible purchasing decisions while adhering to budget
  • Build and sustain positive relations with distributors and vendors
  • Resolve concerns raised by kitchen staff and customers
  • Comply with safety, food handling and sanitation standards

Deciding between a full-time vs freelance chef

Before writing a chef job description or interviewing candidates, decide if you need a full-time or freelance chef.
 

There are typically two types of full-time chefs: private chefs and restaurant chefs. A private chef is typically employed full-time by only one client (usually a family). Many private chefs live in the house where they’re employed and prepare all of the meals for the household. A restaurant chef typically works at a restaurant on a full-time basis.
 

Freelance chefs often work as personal chefs, cooking for several different clients per week. Other duties of a freelance chef might include catering for special events, designing menus or filling in for full-time restaurant chefs.

What are the ranks of chefs?

When you want to hire a chef, it’s important to understand the hierarchy of a typical professional kitchen. Many restaurants follow the “Brigade de Cuisine” system, which is a French kitchen hierarchy that keeps restaurant operations running efficiently. Starting from the highest level to the lowest level, here are the common ranks of chefs:
 

  • Executive chef: Mostly a managerial role that performs very little cooking. Many smaller restaurants don’t have an executive chef, instead relying on the head chef to perform these duties.
  • Head chef: Manages the entire kitchen, including staff, costs, suppliers, menus, etc.
  • Sous chef: Second in command in most kitchens, a sous chef is more heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the kitchen.
  • Station chef (AKA line chef or line cook): A chef who focuses on highly specific cooking duties (e.g., butcher, pizza, fish, grill, pastry, vegetable).
  • Junior chef: These chefs usually have just completed formal culinary training and are learning the ins and outs of working in a professional kitchen.
  • Kitchen porter or prep cook: Performs basic food preparation that often doesn’t require formal culinary training (e.g., peeling potatoes, washing vegetables).

Where to find chefs

To find the right chef for your business, consider trying out a few different sourcing strategies:
 

  • Hire from within. Are any of your junior chefs ready to move up? Maybe your sous chef has the right experience and qualifications to become a head chef. Evaluate your current staff and see if there’s anyone who matches your job requirements. Hiring internally can also boost employee morale and retention.
  • Network. Attend restaurant industry networking events, tradeshows and conferences to speak directly with high quality chefs who may be interested in joining your company.
  • Ask members of the restaurant community. Talk to your suppliers and other cooks, chefs and managers to see if they know anyone who might be a great fit.
  • Post a help wanted sign in your window. Another option is to post a help wanted ad in your restaurant window so more people know that you’re hiring.
  • Post your job online. Try posting your chef job on Indeed to find and attract qualified chef candidates.

Skills to look for in a great chef

The ideal chef inspires and brings joy to customers by using their ability to create unique and memorable culinary experiences. Conscious of food quality, operation costs and food trends, a great chef candidate will have training, qualifications and experience that reflect these top chef skills and qualifications:
 

  • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts or related discipline
  • Experience in a high volume, full-service restaurant
  • Kitchen management experience, including hiring and training staff members
  • Understanding of beverage and food handling policies
  • Ability to be on your feet for long periods of time
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Familiarity with POS systems and inventory control systems
  • Creativity
  • Detail-oriented

Writing a chef job description

A thoughtful job description is important to finding qualified chef candidates. A chef job description includes a compelling summary of the role, a detailed list of duties and responsibilities and the required and preferred skills for the position. You may also want to include details about the working conditions and physical demands of the role, as well as what availability is required (e.g., nights, weekends).
 

When writing your chef job description, consider including some or all of the following keywords to improve the visibility of your job posting. These are the most popular search terms leading to clicks on chef jobs, according to Indeed data:
 

  • Chef
  • Cook
  • Executive chef
  • Kitchen manager
  • Chef manager
  • Culinary
  • Restaurant
  • Food service
  • Catering
  • Banquet
  • Pastry

Interviewing chef candidates

After reviewing the resumes of your top chef applicants, schedule interviews to learn more about them. Ask targeted and thoughtful questions to find out more about a job candidate’s education, training, professional experience and career ambitions. Strong candidates for chef positions will be confident when answering a variety of questions about the following topics:

  • Menu creation
  • Culinary standards
  • Food preparation/cooking methods and equipment
  • Management responsibilities
  • Inventory control and food purchasing
  • Sanitation and safety
  • Passion for cooking

Need help coming up with interview questions? See our list of chef interview questions for examples (with sample answers).

FAQs about how to hire a chef

What is the difference between a cook and a chef?

Cooks and chefs both prepare and cook food, but a chef typically has formal culinary training, more developed cooking skills and usually works in a hotel or restaurant with table service, while a cook usually has less training and is typically found at a fast food restaurant or diner.

What does a chef wear?

Commonly referred to as a “chef’s whites,” a chef uniform is made up of a toque blanche (chef hat), a black or white jacket, checked or striped chef pants and slip-resistant shoes. You may choose to provide your chefs with a uniform or ask them to buy their own uniform that fits within your restaurant’s dress code standards.

What is chef short for?

“Chef” is short for the French term “chef de cuisine” which translates to “head of the kitchen.”

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