October 24, 2019
Posted in: Culinary Arts

Acing Your First Interview Out of Culinary School

Culinary school is an enriching, rewarding and challenging experience that prepares graduates for a career in the culinary world's many professional roles. Boulder culinary school graduates are ready to draw on their skills and experience to start making their path in this competitive and demanding yet extremely rewarding industry. And with an 11% growth rate projected across the major culinary job categories, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are plenty of openings for newly minted professionals to consider.

When you've completed your program and are ready to seek out a chef position, job interviews will likely be one of the first things that comes to mind. Understanding how to navigate this crucial part of the hiring process can help you set yourself apart from other candidates and leverage your professional education. Let's look at how you maximize your chances of acing your first interviews.

A woman in the midst of a job interview.Consider how your education connects to a restaurant's offerings before you arrive for the interview.

How to stand out from the crowd during your first culinary job interviews

There are some key considerations to keep in mind when you're preparing to meet the head chef, general manager and other business leaders involved in potentially hiring you for a job in the back of house. One of the most important is the structure of these initial meetings. The two major components of most chef interviews are:

  • A face-to-face portion that is similar to many other job interviews, where the focus is on answering questions about your skills, qualifications and professional interests. This part of the interview is important for establishing an initial rapport with the person who will manage or supervise you in the kitchen.
  • A trial or staging portion, where you work directly in the kitchen to demonstrate your abilities. This may happen during an actual service while the restaurant is open or in a more hypothetical, but no less challenging, situation while the business is closed.

Preparing for these two aspects of the interview helps you maintain focus and perform at your best throughout the process.

Making the most of the interview

Taking stock of your specific abilities and training can go a long way toward making a positive impression with the interviewer. Consider researching the restaurant – its cuisine, history, atmosphere and similarly important components of its identity – and thinking through how your skill set can be a good match for the business's needs. Perhaps you have in-depth experience preparing similar dishes, or you studied the same type of cuisine the restaurant serves during the course of your education.

You should also prepare a few questions for the interviewer to demonstrate your interest. You can ask about their own culinary background, what motivated recent changes to the menu, any advantages or disadvantages related to the layout of the kitchen, the number of covers during an average lunch or dinner service, and much more. Asking questions helps you learn more about the opportunity and make sure it aligns with your needs.

Preparing for staging

Showing up with a professional appearance but being ready to work in the kitchen is a critical consideration in this context. Make sure:

  • Your nails are clean and short.
  • You have a hair net or hat on hand, if necessary.
  • You wear appropriate clothing and footwear for working in the kitchen.
  • You use minimal, if any, makeup, perfume and cologne.
  • You bring along key tools like your knives and knife roll, thermometer, pen or marker, and other vital items that chefs generally own and maintain themselves.
  • You prepare yourself by getting into the right frame of mind. Be ready to be less talkative than you would during the interview, asking questions only when necessary and replying to commands with a confident, succinct "yes, chef," "no, chef" or "right away, chef."

Colorado culinary school graduates can use this advice to make the most of their first job opportunities after graduation. To learn more about starting your education in the world of culinary arts, get in touch with us today.