How to recruit quality chefs

How to recruit quality chefs

Whether you need an extra pair of hands to help in the kitchen on a Sunday Lunch or a Head Chef to design an ‘on trend’ gastro menu and lead a brigade; recruiting good quality chefs (or food handlers) is a challenge.

Hopefully this advice serves you well…

Advertising Methods Prioritised:

Priority 1: Promote and develop – who in the business has the behaviours that you require from the role? If it’s knowledge and skills that they lack, is this something that could be learned? If so, pay for training rather than costly recruitment!

Priority 2: Exhaust your network. You may well catch the chef you used to work with years ago at a point that they are looking for a change. Rack your brain and make some calls. It will only cost you minutes and the price of a phone call.

Priority 3: Poach – Be ruthless. Your competitors undoubtedly at some point will try to poach your staff. Ask locals, staff, walk in and eat in places on your day off (recruitment expense). When you meet someone make sure you have a decent business card with your number and email address on it (they cost peanuts on-line and could save you a fortune in recruitment advertising.) Better than just giving your details – take theirs too! “Here’s my card let me take your email address.”   

Priority 4: Bounty – There will be cracking members of your team that you value, graft and do a great job. They all have friends and family – chances are their friends and family share the same values, principles and interests they do. A poaching reward if they bring a good quality people will have them thinking carefully about who they might know that would be interested. (Make sure you offer the reward after the new team member has completed at least 3 months service). However, be warned – once you start a bounty scheme…

Priority 5 Local Free Advertising – Use the jobcentre. Make sure you ask for a CV from everyone that applies. That way you’ll filter out the ones that are ‘tick boxing’ application quotas. Do a formal interview. Give lots of feedback; pick up the phone regularly to the job centre team, build a relationship... it can happen…

Priority 6: Advertising Websites – There are a mix of pay for and free recruitment websites. Look at big hospitality, Caterer, HTE recruitment, Chef talk,,  Chef search. Carefully articulate the benefits of working for you (see ‘articulating the benefits of working for you’ below).

Priority 7: In Pub – Signage externally and internally can work. This is definitely not a preferred option – consider the image you want to project to your guests. Use very positive language – “always recruiting great people” is much better than “Chef’s needed” or “Kitchen staff vacancies.”

Priority 8: Local Rag- Expensive and low yields. Don’t pay for this until you’ve fully exhausted above priorities.

Articulating the Benefits of Working for You

If you want a Chef of spectacular quality to work for you for 70+ hours a week on a peanuts salary and sort all your legal compliance, health and safety, develop a menu, do the ordering, deliver great food quality, speed of service, lead a high performing team, recruit, train, and develop people… forget it… it’s a unicorn. Peanuts attracts monkeys.

Quality Head Chefs are expensive.

However; the answer isn’t always throwing money at salary. Consider what else might be valued by that ‘wonder chef’ you’re after…

Number of hours per week… consider guaranteeing a 48 only hour week (they might be fed up of working 70+ hours for the same salary) Remember the saying “48 hours of quality is better than 70 hours of S*$t.”

Set days off… Chefs might value consistency in their days off.

No split shifts.. Most chefs hate split shifts… more often than not it suits the employer more than employee and is a poor, motivation draining working practice – especially if you don’t live in.

Responsibilities – Some chefs crave the opportunity to be creative and produce their own menu or specials.

Training/ development – What are the opportunities to develop their own knowledge and skills in your business? What is the training plan you will organise look like? What is this worth?

Hourly rate vs salary – Some senior chefs get to a point where they might prefer a large hourly rate over a salary (you’ll need to be able to guarantee a minimum number of hours).. be flexible and think through the best thing to put our on an advert.

Bonus – Drop a carrot and link food growth to a percentage bonus.

Transport – For some odd reason, lots of Chefs don’t learn to drive. If you are on a bus route or train link put it on the advert!

Consider the difference in below adverts:

Head Chef Wanted – Very busy pub requires Head Chef. This position may suit a second chef looking for their first Head Chef role.  Responsibilities include menu costing and creation, staff training, health and safety and cleaning, kitchen paperwork, ordering, HACCP, supplier selection as well as leading all busy shifts. Spilt shifts and weekends are expected. Salary £18,000. Call…

Head Chef Vacancy – A rare and exciting opportunity to lead a busy kitchen with a great team. We believe in a healthy work/life balance and guarantee 2 days off every week with no spilt shifts. We provide a full induction and look forward to hearing your ideas on menu design. You will be responsible for all aspects of food safety and standards, delivering perfect food quality and developing the kitchen team. Very competitive salary with bonus; or happy to discuss high hourly rate if its suits you. The business has close public transport links. You will be a positive leader to fit into a high performing management team… Call…    

Which would be your first call if you were a fed up, exhausted Head Chef currently on £26,000 salary working all the hours God sends?