Chef Job Interviews: The Do’s and Don’ts

Excel’s General Manager Shane Mclave began his career as a chef before making the move into chef and hospitality recruitment. He’s been interviewing chefs for years and has seen it all in terms of the dos and don’ts. Read his top tips for chef job interviews here-

I have now been interviewing chefs for almost as many years as I was a chef myself and I can safely say that when it comes to certain really common questions, 50% of all chefs don’t have the answers. Many chefs, while great at what they do in the kitchen, don’t have the tools they need to prove their ability to manage a kitchen in a job interview. So what are the must-haves when going for an interview, or for that matter, what do you need to know to be able to build yourself a successful career as a chef?

Know your numbers

I understand that costs will vary from restaurant to restaurant depending on what you sell but you don’t need to be an accountant to have a basic understanding of costings. This is crucial in an interview. In broad terms:

If you are selling lobster for €30 euro, which costs you €12 to make, and sell a pizza, that costs you €2.50, for €28euro it goes without saying you will make a lot more money selling pizza then you will selling lobster. This is why pizza restaurants are everywhere and lobster restaurants are not.

When it comes to food and labour cost there is no exact formula but if you follow the rough rule of “a third, a third, and a third” you’ll be headed in the right direction. Slightly better again, would be “30, 30, 40”. This means meaning no more than 30% food cost (25%-27% would be optimal) keeping labour costs 30% and the rest should cover the cost of running the business and if you’re lucky, a profit at the end of the year.

For chefs trying to keep the kitchen running at less than 30% food cost, this works more or less in reverse i.e., if a starter costs you €3.00 to make then you multiply this by 3.5 and sell it for €10.50, if something costs you €10, then you sell it for €35.

With the numbers taken care of now comes the most important thing of all-

The Food

It’s amazing how many interviews I have sat through with chefs who don’t mention food at all. While HACCP and how you work in a team are important, when people hire a chef they above all want someone with a genuine love and passion for food and who’ll bring that enthusiasm into their kitchen. If you don’t have a passion for food perhaps you need a change of career or at least a change in kitchens.

I always ask chefs in interview ‘what the last restaurant that you ate in?’ or ‘what do you like to cook at home if you’re entertaining?’ and it’s staggering how many times I am met with a blank stare. I’ve gotten this response when interviewing seriously established head chefs from the likes of 4* hotels. Personally, I’m far more interested and excited to interview a second-year commis chef who goes foraging on their days off or grows herbs and vegetables at home and the same will be true for any potential employer so be sure to make the food central to everything you discuss in an interview.

Dress for success

Just because you wear whites all week doesn’t mean you can’t dress to impress in an interview. All good chefs are neat and clean in the kitchen and if you can’t groom yourself or dress in a professional manner then what are the chances won’t keep the kitchen neat and tidy or at least that is what a potential employer will think of you.

Barry Whelan Excel Recruitment

The Benefits of Benefits for Attracting Great Staff

With unemployment at near perfect and retailers large and small struggling to attract and retain good employees, CEO of Excel Recruitment Barry Whelan, discusses how important benefits are for attracting talent.

In 2017, the move from a client-driven job market to a candidate driven job market was completed across all retail sectors. A consistent drop in unemployment coupled with new entrants to the Irish market and a desire for the best talent from Irish retailers drove an unprecedented amount of opportunities across the retail industry. This, along with a return to growth in the wider economy and in particular, the hospitality sector has created a challenging talent environment from which to recruit, with other sectors including retail banking also looking for retailers.

Unemployment currently stands at 6.1% (3.7% Unemployment is ‘Perfect Employment’) so the competition for top talent is fierce and counter-offers are becoming more and more frequent, with employers working hard to keep talented staff

“1/3 of the workforce offered a role, turned it down due to lack of benefits”

While rising salaries are an effective way of both attracting and retaining staff, we’re seeing more and more the importance of benefits. 54% of employees seeking a new job want better pay & benefits while 30% of employees want benefits to increase their loyalty. Savvy employers are looking at the entire package in an effort to ensure retention and a happy, dedicated workforce. Bonuses, employees’ work-life balance and their level of autonomy are key drivers in ensuring staff feel valued and rewarded for their contribution to the business.

Employers are recognising that the decision to leave or stay with an employer is overwhelmingly an emotional decision and are seeking to improve loyalty through benefits. In terms of importance, the big three are most definitely pension, health and holidays. These are followed by flexi-time, flexible working hours, paid maternity/ paternity leave, sick pay scheme, weekend rotation and further education.

So what is coming down the tracks?

The top employee perks for 2017 Glassdoor USA-

IKEA- Paid Paternity for four months

Reebok- On-site gym with Cross fit classes.

Goldman Sachs- Health cover for gender reassignment surgery since 2008

Facebook- Free housing for Interns

Scripps Health- Free pet insurance

Starbucks- Full reimbursement for all workers taking an online BA Degree.

American Express- Parents are given access to a 24-hour lactation consultant, and mothers travelling for business can ship their breast milk home.

Eventbrite- The company offers workers a monthly $60 wellness allowance that can be used on anything from juice cleanses to a gym membership.

Wholefoods Market- 20% staff discount

Gap- Provides free access to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to corporate employees.

Swiss RE- Insurance company Swiss Re’s “Own the Way You Work” program encourages employees to embrace flexibility with their schedules and work remotely.

Southwest- Southwest offers all employees and their dependents access to Clear Skies, an employee assistance program that provides confidential counselling, work/life services, and legal consultations.

Genentech- Genentech offers unique on-site amenities, including car washes, haircuts, childcare centre, mobile spa and dentist.

Timberland- Timberland employees can take up to 40 hours of paid time off per year to volunteer.

Microsoft- $800 towards Gym membership

Deloitte- Two paid Sabbaticals

Amazon- Parental Share. Either Parent can take paid leave if one does not receive paid leave from their employer.

In-N-Out- Free Lunch

Grocery market up

Grocery market heats up thanks to good weather

The soaring temperatures have had a positive impact on the Irish grocery market, increasing sales of summer grocery favourites by 9% ahead of an overall market growth of 2.1%.

A surge in summer essentials, such as sun care products and ice cream, has boosted the Irish grocery sector by €27 million according to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel. Sales of ice cream, barbeque foods and sun care products have rocketed by 12%, 10% and 8% respectively compared to this time last year. Alcoholic drinks have also experienced a surge in demand – cider has seen impressive growth of 14% and beers and lagers are up 5%. According to Dave Berry, director of Kantar Worldpanel, “The influence of the hot weather on sales of summer essentials looks even more impressive when you compare this to overall market growth at 2.1%.”

In the latest standings in the supermarket wars, which deal with the 12 weeks to 17 May 2018, Tesco remains the leader, increasing its market share to 22.4 %, a jump of .3%. The retailer experienced sales growth of 3.7%, with 1.3 million shoppers choosing to shop there and upping their average spend by .80c to €25.50. SuperValu stands in second position, capturing 21.8% of Irish shoppers’ grocery spend, experiencing sales growth of 0.1%. The retailer continues to have a loyal customer following, with consumers shopping more frequently at SuperValu stores.

Dunnes Stores also saw growth during the 12 weeks, posting sales growth of 2.6% and has increased its market share by 0.1 percentage points. The grocer’s success has come from encouraging shoppers to up the value of their baskets to an average of €42.60 – an increase of over €2.50 compared to this time last year. The discounters also performed well with Lidl holding a market share of 11.7% – its highest since October 2017 while Aldi has upped its share to 11.4%, thanks to sales growth of 2.4%, Aldi. Both grocers have performed particularly well in Munster, where they continue to challenge the other major retailers.