Hiring the Right Chef for your restaurant

Unless you are the chef for your new restaurant, hiring the right chef may be your most formidable task. Cooking is not only a demanding profession, but also a science, as anyone who has learned to cook anything may attest. As in any profession, levels of skill and talent vary, so you should have a good idea of what you expect. The professional chef has many responsibilities, including food preparation, menu management and pricing, inventory control, purchasing, and staff hiring and scheduling. Poor management of any of these may mean failure for your restaurant.

Word-of-mouth is probably the best way to begin your search for a chef. The restaurant world is not as large as one might think and an opportunity to work in the very restaurant you’re planning may be exactly what some chef is seeking. This is where your own research, planning, and vision may help connect you with the ideal candidate. Know what you want. Know what you offer. Accept and keep all CV’s until you’re ready to make a decision. Keep in mind that an experienced chef may be able to expand her or his cooking repertoire – within limits. On balance, strong management skills are worth serious consideration too, especially in newer restaurants.

You’re looking for a chef comfortable with the style of your particular restaurant. The person you hire will determine the appeal of the menu, the quality of food preparation, food costs, and the happiness and efficiency of your kitchen and dining room staffs. And you want to retain an experienced and reliable staff for as long as possible. That way, they’ll be able to participate in various tasks and become professionally more versatile and more valuable to your business. Your chef should be knowledgeable about all aspects of food purchasing, inventory control, food preparation, and staff management.

Good staff morale is crucial to the success of your restaurant. Think about that restaurant you’ve never gone back to, all because of the miserable staff. (We’ve all been to at least one of these establishments.) The right chef will ensure that customers praise your professional staff – and return to your restaurant. As important as the food is the quality of the service. As every successful restauranteur knows, dining is always about more than a good meal. The experience should always be memorable.

How to start a new restaurant

Everyone loves good food, and many talented people who cook – or are certain they’ll be able to find someone who can – think about opening a restaurant. What could go wrong? Right? The very devil may be found in the details. The first questions you should ask are: What knowledge do I bring to the project? And – What do I need to know to succeed? Research is the key; hone your vision and keep it clearly in mind when planning every aspect of your restaurant, from the menu to the decor to the way each table is set. Everything matters.

It’s always a good idea to start with the basics: Why do we go to a restaurant? And what makes us return? If criteria for the dining experience were focused only upon eating, we might as well just open a can and pop the contents into a microwave. But we want more – discreet and attentive service, comfort and ambiance, good food from an interesting menu, and trust that our dining experience will be just as wonderful the next time. And remember that even a restaurant with great food may fail if service is bad.

Where would you like to open your restaurant? The choice of location may determine everything from hours of operation to the prices on your menu to the time it takes to serve and clear a table. Your restaurant’s location may encourage parties, weddings, or in the location of one of our places, by the Shakespeare’s Globe – pre- and post-theatre dining, business luncheons, afternoon tea, weekend brunches and breakfasts, or any combination. Research your location and find out what draws customers to the area, what restaurants already exist there, and how you may encourage people to spend time in your new restaurant. Remember, too, that the people in the neighborhood may become your most loyal clients – and your best advertising.

We’ve saved our discussion of the most important and most daunting task for last: Unless you are one yourself, finding the right chef for your new restaurant may become a search both complex and very personal. The success of your restaurant depends upon your choice, and good chefs are at a premium. There are excellent culinary schools that produce many budding chefs, but finding a chef with the skill and experience to run a busy restaurant kitchen will take time and patience.

Overall, you should aim to provide a brand that is part of what you deliver in menu quality, décor, design, theme, but most of all, good service is what will keep you going beyond the initial buzz.

About Diccon Wright

Christopher Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist who has established and grown successful operations in the UK and Mediterranean. He has also worked on a consultancy and advisory basis for a wide range of food and property clients.