Let’s get this straight – finding a brilliant head chef is hard work.

If you’re a restaurateur, you’ll know this all too well. Head chefs are often temperamental, artistically complex and deeply passionate about their craft. As a result, the best out there are very few and far between.

People do move around in hospitality, though. Head chefs, in particular, will look for a new challenge if their current position feels stale. And, if you’re in the process of recruiting one of your own, here’s six questions you need to ask them before handing over the apron:

1. What made you want to be a head chef?

The answer to this question will tell you an awful lot about your potential new hire.

If they smile and say “money”, or “fame”, be wary. The right candidate will be far more passionate with their reply, pointing to a desire to create the best food they can and manage a team of cooks who deliver a consistently brilliant experience for guests.

2. Are you a team player?

A bit of a cliche this one, yes, but it’s vitally important your new head chef knows how to both run and act within a team.

Combine this question with a few follow-ups that dig into their desire to work well with others, whether or not they have a good sense of humour and how they might handle conflict in the kitchen.

3. How do you lead?

There are many leadership styles – some amazing, some… well, terrible.

You want the former, obviously, so ask potential head chef candidates what it is they feel to be their best leadership qualities. You want someone who respects their team, but who knows how to tread that incredibly tricky and fine line between leader and friend.

4. What are your strengths and weaknesses

Another cliched interview question, but one that will tell you an awful lot about the candidate.

Their answer should be relatively comprehensive. If they shrug or deliver what feels like a pre-recorded script of what one should say during an interview, they may be struggling to tell you the truth.

A short list of strengths and longer list of weaknesses isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either – particularly if they show a real desire to improve on the latter.

5. Why do you want to work at my restaurant?

Boom! This is a big one and will show how much – or how little – homework they performed prior to the interview.

Their answer should come from the heart and give you a little window into what it was that attracted them to your business in the first place.

If they fail to mention anything recognisable about your business – tread with caution.

6. Why did you leave your last job?

Chances are, this won’t be the head chef’s first job, and with that in mind, you need to do a little digging into what made them leave their previous position.

Was it simply a case of wanting a new challenge or something more concerning? If the latter, ask them to elaborate; honesty in such a situation will go a long way to proving whether or not you can trust them to run your kitchen.

Wrapping up

The above list is non-exhaustive, but it represents the questions that will provide the most telling answers when recruiting a new head chef.

And trust us – when you find the right one, you’ll know pretty quickly.

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