What 3 questions would you ask a prep cook during an interview?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by cook1st, May 10, 2016.

  1. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Right now I need to hire a prep cook, line cook and a kitchen manager. Are there any specific questions that would reveal the most as to whether or not they would be qualified? Also, any dishes you would have them prepare to see if they're able to follow directions and/or showcase their technical knowledge?
     
  2. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,076
    Likes Received:
    417
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Prep cooks would be on the lower end of me worrying about experience experience. I just want to know about attendance, and if they feel they are a quick learner and could follow directions. Speed and willingness to move onto the front line would also be a plus. Cleanliness and sanitation would also be a nice touch.

     Front line cook questions would be about how they work with others. The front line people have to know how to work with, not be know it alls and dictators. I think past experience and length of their jobs would tell you a lot. Cleanliness and sanitation and organization. A good question to always ask just so you can hear the answer is, how do you feel about a party of 6 coming into the restaurant 5 minutes before closing. The answer may show temperament and take them off the stage they are performing on to get the job. Dependably  and a question on what stands in the way of being called in at the last minute. 

    The kitchen manager, is a different deal altogether. Knowledge of kitchen and equipment, knife skills, past prep experience, knowledge of portions sizes. Basically knowledge of everything that goes on in the kitchen. I also had questions on "what if". When I hire managers I want them handling things like an owner would. If something happens their on it.  What if, someone calls in sick on your day off. What if, someone got hurt on the from line could they or have they had to step in like nothing happened. I'm sure you can come up with some "What if's" of your own. I would also want to know what their management skills are. I need a person to get my vision of how I wanted my employees treated, are they open to that. Of course knowledge of inventories, product security, training, and other normal things are a given.
     
    cook1st likes this.
  3. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

    Messages:
    612
    Likes Received:
    75
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I have them peel a potato and medium dice it, peel a carrot and small dice as fast as they can. This shows me where they are on a basic level. I inevitably have to show them the proper way to do it and see if they can mimic. This tells me if they are able to be taught.

    Ask if they have their own transportation.

    Ask if they know basic food safety such as the order in which to store fish/chicken/pork, etc and what the proper cook temps are.
     
    cook1st likes this.
  4. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,550
    Likes Received:
    121
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    With prep cooks (and any employee in general) I am usually interested in employment history.  One question I always ask is a two-parter; describe the worst boss you ever worked for and how was your last boss.  It's almost always telling to listen to someone discuss their previous employer.  Even if you worked for a psychopath you really shouldn't badmouth them. If they threw a knife at you or something then obviously mention that./img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif   It's like the woman that says every single ex was an asshole, but never sees her own role in any of the problems.  A history of walking out of jobs without notice is a huge red flag because it will almost certainly happen again.

    A line cook needs to have some skills but I'm more interested in temperment.  Are they easy going?  Do they have bad temper?  During an interview I'll always casually ask them about their previous coworkers.  I try to drop it casually in small talk- I don't want to grill them or make them think about it, just tell me the first things they think.  It's almost always telling.  Were they put off by poor cleanliness or lazy coworkers?  I also like to ask them what the busiest kitchen they ever worked was like as well as the slowest.

    I'm merely a chef, not an owner, but I've sat in on some interviews for GMs.  I'm looking for the same kind of stuff Billy mentions.  How do they view the staff?  Are they respectful?  Do they have an ownership attitude towards their jobs?
     
    cook1st likes this.
  5. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Thanks a lot for the help here, I love love the question highlighting the temperament. Kitchen manager is going to a tough interview because I have less experience than most line cooks. The primary reason I'm looking for a kitchen manager is to keep my BOH in line, my lack of leadership and follow through when it comes to rules is starting to affect the kitchen. Thanks for your help!!
     
  6. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    We already have a GM, but i expressed some frustration a week ago about how I felt I was doing more and more with less and less.I needed a line and/or prep cook. We always pay so little and we get an employee who has no skills and I have to train. We have yet to hire someone with more than 2 months experience on the line or prep because no one wants to work for minimum wage. After our meeting, my GM suggested maybe you should also look for a kitchen manager, which is what were now doing. In addition to that, i am now allowed to offer a more competitive wage. Posted an ad on craigslist a few months back with a minimum wage and got 3 resumes but no one showed up to interview. Two days ago posted an ad and have 14 resumes and we'll see how it goes tomorrow and the following days for interviews. 
     
  7. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,550
    Likes Received:
    121
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I will level with you- you're not gonna get good experienced cooks for minimum wage.  Why would a good cook work for you?  I don't know what kind of market you're in but skilled cooks are in very short supply.  I'd give my left nut to hire one good guy that cook could hold down the broiler even on a slower night, and I am willing to pay that guy or gal fairly.  In my market that cook just doesn't exist. 

    Do you offer any kind of advancement?  Regular raises?  Put yourself in the shoes of the people you're interviewing (or trying to interview).  What's in it for them?  Few people will bust their ass for minimum wage, especially if there's no prospects of raises or advancement.  What kind of money will you be paying a kitchen manager?  It will be frustrating for them trying to manage a crew of unskilled minimum wage cooks.

    It can work I guess if your menu is pretty simple.  But it takes experienced cooks to execute an upscale menu.

    Out of curiosity what is the min where you are?
     
    chef torrie likes this.
  8. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    10.50 but going to 11.50 in July. Found what I think was the ideal candidate, but wanted 50k. Is it worth it to let go of two of my employees for this one person?
     
  9. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,076
    Likes Received:
    417
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Cook1st, you need to figure out a labor cost for the kitchen. Then you can figure out how much money to allocate for each position. We are also into the "New Normal" World of "How the hell can I hire all these people for $15 and maintain a low labor cost. You need to think of what you need these people to accomplish on a daily basis for Prep, dishwasher, front line cooks and kitchen management. When you figure out what your needs are you can then put a dollar amount limit on these positions. You may find out you would rather have a lead cook along with two other qualified front line cooks. I would rather have talent over bodies hanging around the kitchen. Think of the budget being, I have $500 a day to work with, what is the best way to spend that money to run a efficient operation. 
     
  10. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,550
    Likes Received:
    121
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    It may be worth the money to get the right person. But it's a little bit like the salary cap in pro sports. Do you spend 40% of your entire cap space on the QB?  You still need defense, a running back, wide outs, etc.  And even if you get the perfect person he or she will need a day off.  Or get sick, or have something come up.  Then you need to have staff to cover the shifts.  BTW, minimum wage here in MN is $9.00- $11.50 is tough if they're not decent to begin with.
     
  11. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Well said, not to shoot myself in the foot, but this is the first time I've looked at our labor costs since becoming exec. Today I asked my crew, "if i wanted to do something paperwork related for the kitchen, what would it be." Half of them said something along the lines of lack of organization, citing a protocol and an actual daily to do list for each individual regardless of position. 

    Does that mean I should write out a list for position, eg. cook, food runner, support, morning prep or by name? 

    Also, were running 28% labor cost , we were at 22% for my first 2 months as exec, but I was also working 80-90 hours a week which included getting there saturday at noon to prep, then line/expo till 9pm, then to finishing up brunch prep till 9am sunday where I would try to squeeze a 30 min prior to brunch service(11-3). Another nap till 4 and then take part of a 2 man line, hoping i could squeeze in inventory/ordering and leaving by 10pm. This is not me bragging about how dedicated I am, but to disclose that my lack of leadership and inability to properly delegate has forced me to take it upon myself and it's starting to feel like I am doing more and more with less and less. My co-sous recently left, stating he was not ready to take on the sous position that it involved too much(really wasnt, i did at least 1.6x he did when i was sous and with less experience nonetheless) only to have him come back as a line cook with the same pay. Mind you, he only wanted a $1.50 raise for the sous position(he got and gets $12/hr) and my other co sous works only one shift on fri,sat,sun. 

    Another thing i just recently noticed is that my AM prep girls will text me on my days off asking if there's any other prep work that needs to be done. While I have given our PM crew the prep sheets to fill out(a recent thing), they are not thorough and I end up having to double check when I come in. Sometimes the prep girls will take it upon themselves to also check the line, but that is not always the case. 

    How do i really know what my kitchen needs, when I know I am part of the problem? And is this problem solvable?  Two weeks ago out of frustration,I walked out during service, and on the owner's ticket. I was weeded all night, one  owner texted me if I was able to get the order to him tonight, i replied "no" which is the first time i ever didnt do it the same night, he comes in just the rush was dying and orders 6 items(3 apps and 3 entrees). Pacing back and forth...i calmly asked the line...should i walk out??? They asked, why and i said," I don't want to work for an owner that would do this, yes i know he's the owner and even if it's for quality control---he knew we were one man down and that we were busy and still wants to order all this shit. No phone call to to let us know so we can perhaps prepare it or ask us before placing the order. Maybe, I'm overreacting." I got back to cooking his stuff and a min later, i apologized to the other cook. " You have to pull the pho broth, wrap the meat in the ice bath, strain the marinara, and cut up the gelatin upstairs and place it in the meatballs and then make meatballs, but im leaving and I am truly sorry that you are stuck in the middle of this." I left, turned my phone off because if they called, I would have returned...I'm what you call a "yes man." I say and do everything they ask with what I have and then I get mad at whoever even though I should have said no or prioritized.

    I didnt show up to work the next day(first day off in 18 days), which prompted them to run only bar menu. I also kept my phone off and made a pro and con list, and made an outline for the meeting i set up for the next day with the GM. After we talked, my gm said, maybe you need a line or a prep cook to assist you, but maybe look at adding a kitchen manager to the Craigslist ad. Now, ive interviewed everyone and im surprised about the talent pool out there. While i have two stand out candidates for kitchen manager, my prep and line cooks were less than stellar. All of them were asked questions related to the position they wanted which i got from this site. Questions can be found here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1f_iD2p56pEYTFOUTlDc0pwajQ

    and asked them to take an onion, julienne half and small dice the other along with an omelette. Omelette portion was an extra bonus to see if they could possibly help brunch and their heat control, if they used butter or oil,  or if they used any cream or milk, which pan did they want.   Some didnt know their cuts by name, but after telling them what I wanted they did an ok job and the people who did know fared even worse. As for the omlette portion, all took 15 min just to get it out and one cleaned their stations afterwards. 

    I feel slightly lost and hope a couple of new hires will strengthen the kitchen as well as me.
     
  12. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,076
    Likes Received:
    417
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    WOW, I think you are now seeing why Chefs run kitchen. A well run kitchen is all about organization. That being said your more of a doer than a paper pusher. There is nothing wrong with who you are I think most Chefs are better where they feel comfortable. I really feel like your stuck between a rock and a hard place. Employees need job descriptions, training and again not feeling like everything is in disarray. You are the guy that s/b bringing the calm. Your also working why to many hours and your temper, lack of sleep and everything being in disarray in your own life is showing up. Sit down and look at the kitchen and figure out what Daily prep needs to be done and make a list. Look at the front line and hire whats needed with you only backing them up if or when needed. You don't run a station on the like you expedite. You can't manage anything if your manning a station. I have a strange feeling a kitchen mgr isn't the answer, I think you'll buck heads. I think if you get the front line figured out it will free you up to do inventory, ordering and whatever. My feelings are if your working over 60 hrs a week the kitchen is managing you and not you managing the kitchen. .....The best
     
    flipflopgirl likes this.
  13. rndmchef

    rndmchef

    Messages:
    105
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Can I ask what state youre in, Cook1st ??
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  14. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    DC, why do you ask?
     
  15. rndmchef

    rndmchef

    Messages:
    105
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    $12/hr for a sous sounds kinda low to me. that's all.
     
  16. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Yea, my chef gave me 30k when I became his sous chef granted i only worked there for roughly six months and only had 6 months of experience which i solely gained at the restaurant. When I asked my line cook about the promotion and his salary requirements, he was adamant about not going salary bc he saw how much i worked and that he would be happy with 12/hr. 
     
  17. rndmchef

    rndmchef

    Messages:
    105
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    How long had you been there when you became "exec. " ?!?!

    This is your first restaurant you've worked at and now you're running it? Congrats but wow.
     
  18. cook1st

    cook1st

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Trust me, you're not the first to say "wow," but usually in a bad way. Like, what are the owners thinking kind of way. I learn quick and there must be a lack of chefs out there. I think I've been cooking for 14 months now and really didn't cook too much recreationally but always enjoyed it. Got fired from first cook position after two weeks then applied to the restaurant I'm currently at. Learned all three station after 3 months, became sous in 6 and exec in 9 months I think. I'm fully aware of what others think when I first tell them I'm the head chef given my experience, but someone on this site to just stop focusing so much on that sh*t and do my job which really helped.

    My main insecurity is my knowledge base along with my skill set relative to the other chefs outthere.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  19. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,123
    Likes Received:
    485
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    You should only be insecure, if you are not working on improving both your knowledge base and your skill set as you progress in your career. The best chefs are those that are continually striving to learn and grow.

    No one is born or starts out knowing everything that they need to know and with the optimum skill set. A career is a process. Everyone starts. Everyone finishes. Some finish further along in knowledge and skills.

    Don't spend much time, or your wheels, on where you are presently "at" in your career. Focus instead on where and what you want for your future.
     
  20. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,076
    Likes Received:
    417
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Cook1st, After reading your post again and seeing how you were put in this position I have only I suggestion. Have the GM hire a qualified Chef and you be his Sous Chef. This will put you in a better position to not only succeed in this job, but, learn and grow. You have to much to learn and it can't be learning on the fly. You will get hurt in the long run and the restaurant will also suffer. It's not your fault your in this situation, it's the stupidity of the owners and GM. If I owned this restaurant there is no way I would put you in this position with the amount of experience you have. I feel your on your way to an unhappy ending. Chef Bill