If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, right? Well sure; but what if you had some insider tricks at your disposal to keep you cool and bag you that job you were after? We spoke to some of our chefs to discover what it is they look for in newbies and the best ways to impress those in the know. And if you thought it was just about frying the perfect egg, you might be surprised at what they had to say…
Palash Mitra, New Punjab Club
Of course, knowledge and skill play a factor, but my biggest priority is character. Being a good chef is tough work, so I always look to see if they can manage within a challenging and diverse space. How one reacts to having very limited space to relax, being in a hot and stuffy environment, eating a meal while standing up and working closely with diverse people says a lot about who they are and helps me decide if I will hire them or not.
Billy Otis, Black Sheep Restaurants
Skills, skills, skills! I usually give potential hires projects to check their knife skills and incorporate basic terminology like julienne and brunoise in questions to check their knowledge. If they are trying for a more advanced position (for example, on the grill) then I will have them cut and portion proteins and cook me a steak medium-rare. A great steak is imperative!
Safia Osman, The Bakery
For a junior position, what is most important to me is how they interact with my team and how they follow instructions, like reading a recipe. Experience can be gained and basic skills can be picked up, but working with a team is personal. For more senior positions, I watch their hygiene and how clean their work station is. I like to have them create one thing that represents them. What they produce says a lot about their baking style: are they more into molecular, modern techniques or do they go the traditional routes?
Shun Sato, Fukuro
I do not really test anyone on skills. For me, it is more about their passion, ambition and what they can bring to the table. Everyone should have the opportunity to share ideas because ultimately that sense of collaboration is our greatest strength and will only make the restaurant better.
Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook
There are some key things I assess when hiring new cooks, like basic knife skills and work area cleanliness. But it is about more than that to me. I always observe their work habits to see if they are someone my team and I can continuously work with and if they have the potential to grow. I want to make sure we are investing in people that can be with us for the long run.
Gizzy Alesbrook, Hotal Colombo
I always make sure that incoming cooks know their basic knife skills, which can be determined by a simple test: chopping onions and garlic. More specifically to the dishes we make here, we test their palate to find out how much knowledge they have. When you are working with Sri Lankan food, knowing your spices is so important!
Braden Reardon, Carbone
When someone is trialling in the kitchen I always ask them to cook something for me and my team. Something that they love to make, utilising ingredients or techniques that they have seen during their trial. I look out for their unique style and approach to cooking, to see what their roots are and what inspires them, all mixed in with an attention to detail from the skills we have shared.