What Chef Search Committees Really Want

What Chef Search Committees Really Want

By Bill Schulz, MCM

During the past couple of years, the use of Zoom Meetings has escalated to the point that many of us will continue to use this technology even post pandemic. For the (DMA) Team, we have been invited to join many Chef Search Committees to participate in their interviews with Chef candidates, due to the cost of travel and lodging, we would not have been afforded this opportunity as often. However, by sitting in, listening, observing, and adding to the discussion, we have heard firsthand what Clubs are looking for in their next Chef.

Setting the Stage – We call this initial step ‘Setting the Stage’ because that is exactly what the successful candidates have done. They made certain their stage was set and played the role of a confident well-prepared candidate. In advance the stage was set by:

  • Making sure the sound quality was clear and there were no echoes
  • A good background was created with no distractions, not sterile but warm and inviting
  • Set their camera at eye level so it is not projecting down or looking up at you
  • And finally, dressed appropriately; one committee was overly impressed that the candidate wore a suit and tie to his Zoom interview

Let’s move to those qualities that were very apparent with almost all of the Chef Search interviews we observed.

Energy and Enthusiasm “Wow, he looks worn out – I hope he is not applying to get out of a tough situation – We want someone fresh and new!” These are actual statements made by Search Committees after just meeting and observing the candidate. We at (DMA) understand the profession and long hours but it’s extremely important that you appear rested and vibrant. Don’t be disqualified for appearing tired, Period!

Engaging and Friendly – One-word ‘yes and no’ answers to specific questions do not reflect someone who is approachable. Engage with the interviewers and elaborate with your answers. Tell short stories and answer why, add interest, and give specifics. Project congeniality and your ability to work together because of well-matched characteristics. Do not be afraid to smile on the interview. The use of positive words can make a difference such as “opportunity,” “creative,” “dynamic and fun”. Being visible and engaging with the membership has become a top priority in what clubs are looking for.

Substantiated Skills – Let’s call this competent evidence and this is mainly proven though a track record of increasing more responsibility. Building a quality resume is paramount! Clubs want ‘Brand Value’. If you are applying for a bigger position than what you have previously experienced, you have a higher hill to climb from the start. It’s not impossible but you have to prove that you can handle the position. Be prepared!

Team Player – Most clubs already have a team in place, and they want someone who will fit in as opposed to a disrupter. If the opportunity is there, discuss your approach to the position and that you will lead using a firm but fair style. Treating staff with respect and not prejudging but giving your team the opportunity to shine. Clubs want a teacher to coach and counsel prior to applying disciplinary action. Club Management is looking for a Chef who will fit-in and work in tandem with other key department managers.

Passionate about Food – Your love for the profession and product should be evident. Talk about food, how you keep relevant and up to date knowing the latest trends and products. Touch on your knowledge of dietary-specific areas such as Keto, Gluten-free, Vegan, food allergies, etc. as this is becoming increasing more commonplace. Sourcing of ingredients, Farm to Table and sustainable seafood all good topics.

Leadership – One of the most sought-after needs today is the need for qualified leaders. There exists an abundance of good Chef’s, but very few who demonstrate exemplary leadership and refuse to accept mediocrity. Every club operation rises or falls on leadership. In fact, the majority of problems occurring can be traced back to a breakdown or lack of competent leadership at some level.  A qualified leader will take responsibility for the problem, then take steps to ensure that it does not reoccur.

Stability within the Organization – When there is a change of Chefs in a club it is a big deal. Clubs do not want to go through this process every year. They want to be sure they are hiring the right Chef who will be a stable pillar within their organization and someone looking for their career and not just their next job. Someone who they can count on for a minimum of five years. It is good to leave them with the impression you are in this for the long haul, your commitment should evident.

So, there you have it, from setting the stage, to showing your passion for the profession to finally adding your commitment are all particularly important during the interview process. They say practice makes perfect – perhaps doing a ‘mock interview’ may help eventually.

In addition to a good interview, (DMA) also suggests creating a portfolio. Why create a portfolio? Clients almost always ask, “What does the candidate’s menu programing look like? Do you have (images/pictures) of their food?” Building your portfolio is often that magical piece that gets you an interview. (DMA) strongly suggests developing an organized promotion piece that showcases your work.

Good luck in finding that right position for you!

Posted in Editorial

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