Hiring Sous Chef best practices

Joined Jul 27, 2018
Hey all,
In a not-so-unique position but unique to me; in that I have no one in line to promote to a sous chef/ assistant kitchen manager role in our commissary kitchen; production staff of about 30. So I am looking for what you have done when bringing on a new leader to help set them up/find the ones who are really good vs just good on paper.

I had someone who I had been training for the role for the past few years; unfortunately they got frustrated/brought too much of their personal life to work one day, and blew up/threatened to walk/burned a few bridges. We talked, things are ok, but I can’t promote them to this role after that, and frankly they seem burned out. My last sous left in August to a head chef role; and my past two before that also have gone on to bigger and better kitchens. I take pride in having given them tools to grow, they were all hired as lead cooks in a department we’ve since eliminated due to lack of profitability.

Now, we have a lot of post covid growth (yay!) and I am struggling without a 2nd, since I have new people to train, constantly re-thinking work-flows as our numbers increase, and literally having to be on the line more often than not what with all the call outs that come from a 30 person crew. It’s not impossible since they have informal team leads, but we’re getting to a point where it’s getting worse.

That all said; I need to hire from outside. I hate hiring for this role externally; I know our crew and myself are all pretty picky in that they have very high expectations, and have been with the company for a while. So, do you all have best practices that have worked for your sous chef hires? Have you ever had a great line but no one who wanted to manage? I was thinking of hiring for a tournant who wants to manage, to train all around and then promote. Any other suggestions?

Thanks y’all.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
I think your last statement is a good route for anyone; hiring to train all.around then promote. But skip the promote later part.The training all around will have to happen anyway so the new person is familiar with the operation so be upfront and open about that right away with both the new hire as well as the staff. You are hiring a sous chef, they will be training for. awhile but they are sous chef from the start.
You can always do the 90 day probation period in case they prove unworthy.
Otherwise, be open and realistic about expectations up front. Give the candidate a guided tour of the kitchen so they can see it as it happens.
And here's my pet peeve. Let's begin openly discussing the compensation. The pay, overtime, vacation, free meals, health care and/or whatever else you are offering. I've interviewed too many places only to find out at the end that the pay is ridiculous and any other benefits non existent.
Joined May 5, 2010
I agree with chefwriter as well. Might I add that your Sous should be as knowledgeable about running a kitchen as you are. These days the moniker is handed out without the corresponding experience.
If you sincerely feel that none of your current staff has managerial attributes, you'll need to look outside for the position.

I was brought in from the outside several times. Corporate kitchens are notorious for bringing in unqualified people, who are hard to fire because of the rules. I found a way to use the rules against the employee to get them out and bring in experienced and qualified candidates.
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