I have several friends who own outstanding restaurants, but they still struggle with finding a great chef. (You can read my advice on what exactly makes a great chef in Part I of this series.) New restaurants can use any method, including Internet job-board postings, word of mouth, newspaper ads and recruitment at local colleges that have reputable culinary arts programs. However, existing restaurants will want to exercise a little caution when looking for a new chef — especially if you seeking replacement for a current chef. If your current chef sees a “New Chef Wanted” advertisement for your restaurant, most likely he/she will quit — and if you do not have a backup, your meal quality and preparation speed will suffer.
Regardless of your hiring situation, you may also want to try and hide your search from your competition. If they find that you are without a chef, they may attempt to exploit your disadvantage. With this in mind, try the following alternative avenues when searching for a new chef:
Use a recruiting agency. Though sometimes frowned upon because of the financial investment, “headhunters” may be the best option for finding a replacement chef without your current chef or competition finding out. Most recruiting agencies only get paid if they find you a replacement.
Hire within your restaurant. As is the case with many restaurants, we first look outside before looking within. In my experience, however, the inside talent may be much stronger and more capable than the outside pool of potential candidates. This is where coaching by the current chef and restaurant owner becomes a critical ingredient of the long-term financial viability and successful succession plan of a consistently successful restaurant operation. On many occasions some of your line cooks or sous chefs will be eager for the opportunity and well qualified to fill the top kitchen spot. Most sous chefs have culinary school degrees and are just looking for a chance to “show what they can do.” Hiring from within when and where possible is always a great way to boost overall company morale.
Advertise anonymously on an online job board. Utilize sites such as: Indeed, ChefJobs, Hcareers, Monster or CareerBuilder. You should be able to keep your restaurant or company name confidential and create a generic email to receive applications, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to list the metropolitan area where the job is located in the job description, as that is how many applicants narrow their own search.
Talk to your suppliers. Your food suppliers or local equipment dealers may know of chefs that are looking for work. You may want to be cautious of confiding in your food dealer though, because it is most likely that the supplier also sells to your competition. They may tell competitors about your situation.
"Knowing where and how to look will increase your chances of attracting the best talent in the shortest amount of time. "
Knowing where and how to look will increase your chances of attracting the best talent in the shortest amount of time. Once you have a good pool of candidates, you have to impress them just as much as they must impress you. I’ll share my advice on “Closing the Deal” in Part III of our series.