Catersource is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

What to Look For When Hiring Kitchen Staff

Hiring is an inevitable part of business growth. If you want to break barriers, explore new markets, and enjoy soaring profits, you need the support of your team. And when your kitchen is running behind with orders stacking up, it can seem like a fast hire is better than the right hire. 

But don’t get trapped by the perceived “rush”—it’s better to take your time on the hiring process to find the best fit for your company. Otherwise, you might end up paying an underperforming employee with nothing to show.

So what makes a great candidate for the kitchen? Keep reading for smart hiring tips to build a competent, creative, and committed team.

Determine your kitchen needs

If your kitchen lacks leadership, bringing in a new line cook will not solve the problem. You must hire for the role(s) you need to fill, so identify the gaps in your brigade de cuisine and start there.

“When looking to hire management level, we are seeking leaders,” shares David Alan of David Alan Hospitality Group. “Someone who has demonstrated that they can take a team or even an individual and build them up to achieve more. When hiring for less than management, we look for people who have discipline and hold themselves accountable.”

So if you’ve identified a need for a head chef or a sous chef, you’ll know that you need to find someone who is innovative and has strong leadership skills. On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a junior chef, you’ll want candidates that follow instructions and demonstrate a willingness to learn.

Observe personality traits

It’s nice to know a job applicant’s education, experience, and accomplishments. But a well-trained chef who doesn’t get along with others is a recipe for trouble in the kitchen. Getting to know who they are—not just what they’ve done—can help you determine whether they’re a good fit for your brand values and company culture.

Consider the attributes you want to see in your employees, and craft interview questions around them. For example, Alan shares that he asks applicants this question: “If this interview were to take place in your personal vehicle, how long would you need to prepare it before we can start?”

“This is a roundabout way of learning do they take pride in their belongings, do they have good personal hygiene and are they holding themselves accountable,” Alan explains.

For more serious candidates, consider hosting a job shadow day to observe their behavior with others and see how they respond to challenges on the spot. 

Assess problem-solving skills

Things can go awry in the kitchen—there’s no denying that. And while you can’t always calm the chaos, you should be able to expect that your team can handle any obstacle that comes their way. Of course, building a dependable team starts with hiring dependable people, so make sure your interview process factors in problem-solving skills.

Discuss common kitchen problems with your staff. What issues arise for them, and how do they solve them? What would they expect someone else to do? Since your existing employees already have their hands in the mix, they can offer valuable insights to help you measure competency between applicants.

Better yet, create a shortlist of top contenders and throw them in the mix! Much like a job shadow day, give them a hands-on opportunity to demonstrate their problem-solving acumen. You’ll get a glimpse at how they are on the job, while your team can also provide feedback from their perspective.

When hiring for your kitchen (or any department!), remember that you can train people to improve in most hard skills. A new hire can become better with knives, memorize more recipes, and learn how to fulfill their role in the kitchen hierarchy. However, soft skills like time management, work ethic, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity are not easily trainable. So while you might want to hire an acclaimed chef, ensure their personality measures up to their accolades! 


Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the VP Sales for SB Value located in Charlotte, NC. Clint, a former professional race car driver, was one of the top motorsports promoters in the country by the age of 35. Clint used that experience and passion for business to launch his second career in a sales and marketing. Outside of work Clint enjoys spending time on his family farm and coaching his two daughters softball teams. Clint is also an avid cook and self proclaimed badminton superstar.