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Seven Tips for Hiring a Chef—from Industry Experts

A new chef can make—or break—the flavor of any catering company, and chefs are one of the most important pieces of the business. In our annual ICA survey, many caterers answered that they were looking to hire a chef. We asked ICA members who have just hired a culinary expert for some best practices and any tips to help fellow caterers find the very best.

1. Look for long-term candidates

"Do the best you can to ferret out how long-term your candidate can be," advised Toni and Dennis Flabetich, co-owners of Catering Creations by Toni in Washington. "Try as you can to eliminate those who don’t demonstrate an ability be with you for anything other than the short term."

2. Test their instincts on the spot

The Flabetichs added that they brought their candidates in and "provided them with a meat and chicken option and asked them to create two plated meals using any ingredients/spices/etc. in our kitchen." Why? "The intent was to understand their true culinary ability, ability to be creative, and tendency to think on their feet while under pressure."

3. Give them a practical menu challenge

If the in-person interview goes well, before the candidate leaves, "we ask that they produce three menus with costing for 150 people," shared Jim Calato, president of City Gourmet Group in Pittsburgh. Similar to the last, you can see how chefs work within your specific environment.

4. Make sure you've found the right chef

It sounds like common sense, but it is an important reminder. "This is an involved process," said Calato, "but longer and harder if you make a bad choice (that, we have done before)." Take the time at first so you don't have to repeat the process.

Ken Barrett-Sweet speaks with his team behind the scenes pre-event.

5. Bigger companies: consider a recruiter

In the demanding Boston market, Ken E. Barrett-Sweet, executive director of BG Events & Catering, found his chef "using a recruiter." With such a large, experienced market and high culinary expectations, consulting an outside expert can be helpful.

6. Try a classic recipe

A chef should bring something new to the kitchen, but certainly they need to be able to cook with your company's personality, too. Barrett-Sweet shared that he "gives them a recipe to cook and see what comes of it."

7. Consider leadership skills, too

"Look for a leader who can cook," added Barrett-Sweet. "Many caterers only look for a talented cook, which is great for a restaurant, but real management acumen is needed in our industry."


Do you have any tips of your own? Share them with us on the ICA Roundtable Facebook group.


Catering Creations by Toni, City Gourmet Group and BG Events & Catering are proud members of the ICA. To learn more about the ICA, visit


International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit