How do restaurant owners usually interview exec chefs?

Joined Jul 7, 2015
Do they have the exec chef cook?

Do you pick the dishes or do they pick the dishes?

What if you are starting a restaurant and don't have a kitchen ready yet to conduct the cooking test in? Where do you do it in that case?

Do you pay for the ingredients or do they pay (more relevant if you don't have a location yet)?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
The interview will--without fail- include two questions;

1) What was your food cost at your last place?

2) What was our labour cost at your last place?

If the answers aren't what the owners are expecting, there's no need to worry about who pays for ingredient costs..... 
Joined Jul 28, 2001

You can't be more right on the money. Last week I sat in a friends office during which time she had to do a quick 1st. interview for Exec. Chef.

First question, she named a dish. Then asked what the food cost would be and how to prepare and serve it. Also what would you do if there was product left over from prep of the dish. 

Second question. If you have a restaurant that has 160 seats and opened just for dinner, what would be your labor in the BOH and FOH.

I know the restaurant where one of the Chefs were from and it is A+. Funny, both of them stumbled on most of the questions.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Panini-I may be having a brain glitch but how would you know the food cost of a randomly named dish?  I can see expecting to know the prep and cooking method and what to do with leftovers but cost would depend on buying practices wouldn't it? 

Wouldn't knowing BOH and FOH labor cost for 160 seat restaurant also involve more info or is this answer dependent on some standard formula? I'm not happy to admit that these questions would throw me as well but I may be overlooking something obvious. 
Joined Dec 23, 2004
The answers to the OPs questions will depend an awful lot on what kind of restaurant it is.  I worked at an upscale casual place that had a lot of pizzas and pastas on the menu- that place ran around 25% food cost. But a seafood restaurant or steak house won't be close to that; probably more like 35% or so.  A place that relies on a lot of packaged stuff might run fairly high food cost but relatively low labor cost.  A place that does virtually everything from scratch might get food cost down into the 20's but run a lot more labor.

Most restaurants will expect the chef to cook, but not all of them. Some owners will probably do a tasting and see the chef actually cook.  But many are more concerned about his business knowledge and C.V.  I have never actually cooked in an interview for an Exec job but to be fair nearly all of my chef stints were with restaurants where I was brought in because I was well known to the owners.

Chefwriter- you should be able to get at least in the ballpark with food cost, as long as you know the dish.  Someone very new to an area may not be familiar with all the local vendors but for the most part you'll be close with the costs.  Right now PSMO's are at around $11 where I live (the best price I can remember, in fact) and I doubt that's much different across the country.  [Note:  A really big place or part of a chain will of course get better prices than my little 120 set place can.]  So if you know what goes in a dish and roughly the portions you can get reasonably close to the cost.

I really don't know how you'd know labor & food costs for a 160 set place, just open for lunch, unless you had a very clear idea of the kind of place it was.  Upscale bistro?  Crab shack?  Sandwich shop?
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Sorry Phaedrus, PSMO? 
Uh Oh. Lol. 

Stands for "Peeled Side Muscle On" and it is an uncleaned whole beef tenderloin. It is usually pronounce "Pis-Mo"

Don't ever say THAT in an interview lol. 

I agree with you though, I don't think a lot of people should be expected to produce those numbers out of nowhere. Lots of variables to consider. A good ballpark answer I think would be 30%/30%, but again that depends on type of dining and a number of other factors. Fine dining usually means more labor and slightly higher food cost, so be ready to show how you'd try and mitigate the FC% in that environment. 

If someone asks you that question in an interview they might just be gauging how you react to it and can you speak with intelligence on the subject of food and labor cost, can you demonstrate an understanding of how it works, etc. 
Joined Jul 28, 2001
@chefwriter  ,

 You're right. There was a little more info given. Both these Chefs were from restaurants right in this little local foodi area.  They  all use basically the same vendors. They just use the products in their own eclectic ways. They should know what they can get and the minimums and maximums. She named a dish. They both had time to write down a purchase list. One did manually and the other in his head. My Chef buddy didn't really care about plate presentation or how the dish was prepared . She was trying to see if the Chef was creative with the unused product. You know, you can't buy 1 pork chop. or 1 stalk of broccoli. This is where they stumbled. The Chef who wrote down his list did better, but nothing interesting. His labor was accurate and knew his prices and has a GM on site.

The other Chef was  off a bit on his labor but way off on his costs and his restaurant was part of a managing group with no one on the property.

   The FOH and BOH was just a curiosity question for her own information. All three of the places are approx. the same amount of seats and dinner only. She was just trying to see where she stood

in her Labor costs.

  All three of these places are what I call ( New Style). Mostly reductions, no stocks, really no on site preparation like dry age or pickling etc. and some package opening. Average entree 28++

You would have breezed through it. She is a good Chef, born and raised in a restaurant in Germany. Never once balked when I  raise a price on something because of butter, eggs, milk. She just passed it on.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Panini-Thanks for the reply. I may be searching for interviews in the coming year and would like to be prepared. Glad to know I am not as far off the mark as I thought. 
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