Your interview questions and picking your team.

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If during an interview a chef asks me "Is this just a job or a career?" Should I be honest and say it's a job I've been doing for a long time and I'm passionate about doing a good job no matter where I'am and exercising a good work ethic or should I lie and say that it's a career? I've seen career cooks flounder and I have out performed them even during a trail. How do you pick your kitchen team? What questions do you ask your applicants and have you developed enough intuition to know who is going to work out or not?
 

squirrelrj

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If during an interview a chef asks me "Is this just a job or a career?" Should I be honest and say it's a job I've been doing for a long time and I'm passionate about doing a good job no matter where I'am and exercising a good work ethic or should I lie and say that it's a career? I've seen career cooks flounder and I have out performed them even during a trail. How do you pick your kitchen team? What questions do you ask your applicants and have you developed enough intuition to know who is going to work out or not?
Well, if it's not your career, what's your plan for a career?
 
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I've been working for almost 2 years runnng the kitchen for a very well respected chef here in the Upper Midwest. I told him my qualifications, what I have achieved and what I believed in. I also told him I was and would be for 3 more years a full time student for accounting. He asked me something similar, "Where does your passion lie, food or school"? I explained that I was completely able to be a full time chef (not salary full time) and a full time student. My passion is FOOD and being successful in everything I do. That is an answer I look for regarding any interview I do.

But it has to be specific. I ask "What's your favorite dish to cook"? If I get "Fish" or "Steaks", I am immediately finding a way to end the interview. You answer with that you are not passionate, you are not proud of your abilities and you are not able to lead. Lack of details indicates a lack of ability to think on your feet. People who give me details of what they have made are what I look for. "I make a Serrano wrapped monkfish..." or whatever,  and I ask them how they make it. I have to be able to envision it, be familar with it, something has to grab me. Or for those who are honest and tell me they lack experience, then they tell me what really sent them over the edge when they ate it or a place they have been. Look for answers that indicate excitement, passion, enthusiasm. Those are the people who are more than likely to excel where they are already great and  to educate themselves where they fall short to make themselves even greater.

You have to love this art to succeed in it. But "job" "career" those don't matter to me. It's the restaurant biz! People move on left and righ. I don't ask for you to be in my place for five years. I ask you to be EXCEPTIONAL in my kitchen while you are with us! And if you truly are that, I will put every effort to make you stay after that.

Great topic by the way, sorry if I meandered off the subject by sentence number 3.

enrico
 
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Hey alexlexnyc,

Another suggestion is to make sure you talk to each interview for at least one hour straight! It is amazing how fast people get the feeling of being familiar with another and start saying some truly bizarre stuff. On the other hand, it is equally, if not more, amazing how a little time can loosen people up and how that can lead to them expressing some very pertinent information.

Make the interview a conversation. If you are looking for a sous chef and you can't find common ground after 45 minutes to an hour? Start wondering.
 
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If during an interview a chef asks me "Is this just a job or a career?" Should I be honest and say it's a job I've been doing for a long time and I'm passionate about doing a good job no matter where I am and exercising a good work ethic or should I lie and say that it's a career?
How do you pick your kitchen team?
The questions are never the same. It depends on what duties they'll be expected to perform. There's a lot not to be said for intuition and first impressions. I've been wrong quite a few times.
 
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Most head (hiring, executive) chefs won't ask that question. They just want to know if you can do the job for which you are applying.
Chef, I'd like to share a few of my experiences: Chefs had asked me "Where do you see yourself in five years?" and I would answer "In school working on my undergrad." One chef said "So this is just a job" and more recently a chef asked "Do you plan on working HERE while going to school?" Once, I overheard a disturbing conversation while I was working at a restaurant in Portland Oregon: There was a young cook going to the Oregon Culinary Institute. The chef asked him "Can you work late today?" the cook said "I can't, I have to study tonight" the chef asked "Who pays you more, school or this restaurant?" which is kind of a stupid question. What kind of chef doesn't want to see their staff persue academics?
 
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 There was a young cook going to the Oregon Culinary Institute. The chef asked him "Can you work late today?" the cook said "I can't, I have to study tonight" the chef asked "Who pays you more, school or this restaurant?" which is kind of a stupid question. What kind of chef doesn't want to see their staff persue academics?
The chef has his list of priorites. The cook/student has his list of priorities. Who is right? Who is wrong?

Neither.

We all have our own individual list of priorities unque to ourselves and no one else. Teamwork occurs when flexibility enters the picture. Flexibility requires an open mind.

Can you see the chef's point of view on priorities or are you limiting to yourself to only seeing the cook/student point of view on priorities?

The question is one about perspective, not an accusation nor judgement.

Parachutes reach their full potential when open.
 
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The chef has his list of priorites. The cook/student has his list of priorities. Who is right? Who is wrong?

Neither.

We all have our own individual list of priorities unque to ourselves and no one else. Teamwork occurs when flexibility enters the picture. Flexibility requires an open mind.

Can you see the chef's point of view on priorities or are you limiting to yourself to only seeing the cook/student point of view on priorities?

The question is one about perspective, not an accusation nor judgement.

Parachutes reach their full potential when open.
No. I can't see the chef's point of view especially when he wasn't being flexible and realistic with his staff. Yes, the chef has HIS priorities but also wants his staff to share the same priorities. Perspective? Yes, the chef's perspective only hence the stupid question. Only an idiot would have their staff choose between an education and work. Education will always win out.
 
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It would appear that you expect the chef to share the same priorities as the cook/student, which would seem to point to you being as equally unrealistic as the chef.
 
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No. I can't see the chef's point of view especially when he wasn't being flexible and realistic with his staff. Yes, the chef has HIS priorities but also wants his staff to share the same priorities. Perspective? Yes, the chef's perspective only hence the stupid question. Only an idiot would have their staff choose between an education and work. Education will always win out.
Really? You cannot see the chef's point of view?

Perhaps you need to think about it a little bit. The chef is NOT a parent, friend, or educator, s/he has a responsibility to manage a profitable culinary operation with specific goals and tasks, and accommodating the whims and desires of every employee is probably not one of those goals!

Yes, education is valuable and important. Yes, a student may place a higher priority on education over work.

However, that is the STUDENT'S choice, the chef has to see to it that the  tasks necessary to generate the income to afford to pay the student get accomplished in a timely manner.

Why do you feel that a business establishment should adjust its method of operation to accommodate the student?

Any chef/boss in a non-educational enterprise that places a priority of education over work will very quickly be out of work themselves!
 
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It would appear that you expect the chef to share the same priorities as the cook/student, which would seem to point to you being as equally unrealistic as the chef.
This forum is reserved for current and past professional chefs only. Only professionals in the food industry may post here though all are free to read.

Note that even though this is a pro forum, kitchen language is highly discouraged and will result in an infraction or your total removal from cheftalk.  Treat fellow professionals with respect as we all pursue our passion.

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i am working on this problem now.  a cook i hired from another resturant where we worked together is thinking of upgrading his education so he will work as a cook for me and qualify for government money then continue his education and change his career.  since deciding this he has not applied himself to the job.  when cooking was his career choice he was a better employee.  not sure if everyone is like that but i would hire a career cook over a non career cook.  
 
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IMO the answer to the question you asked can be simplified, "do you want to work, or do you want a check?" I had a couple of cooks that only wanted a check, (notice the word "had") these are the cooks that gave me problems, calling in sick on the weekends, showing up an hour late and just waltzing into the kitchen like there is no problem and the such. The thing is if your passionate about what you do, it shows. If not, well that shows too, to your boss and fellow cooks.

The question is asked in interviews for a very simple reason. If you don't see yourself in a kitchen (not neccesarily my kitchen) in five years, Why should I waste me time training you?  There's nothing worse than training a cook only to have him leave after 6 months to do something else and have to start the hiring process all over again. I would much rather build a strong dependable team of passionate cooks and be able to concentrate on the food, rather than who gonna cover this shift tonight?

And as far as education goes, I will quote an unemployment judge. "While education is admirable, employment must come first" And while it's a harsh reality the fact is you work for me, not the other way around. Now i'm not asking anyone to choose the kitchen over education, but also don't use education as an excuse to not be there when I need you...
 
 
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In my experience, it is not the questions I ask that are important, nor is it the answers that I receive. If I look at the interview process as a strict black and white procedure, I will find a lot of pertinent information in the white areas as well as the black areas of verbal responses.
 
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On the flip side, when I am applying for a job and am in the interview process, I find that in the long run things work out better if I am honest in my replies rather than looking for the answers that I think they want to hear. Giving them the answers they want might give me a better chance of getting the job, but if that is the case, is it really the job that I want and will be happy at? The interview process is best being a two sided one with me assessing them as potential employers as well.
 
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