Stephen Hickmore looks at the best techniques for the best interview:
I am often asked for tips on how best to present your talents at an interview, one of the most stressful situations you can encounter. Often, just the mere thought of an interview can make your stomach turn like a pocket of Pommes château and your brow sweat like you’ve just eaten a vindaloo.
There is a lot of pressure on chefs to present in a professional manner, especially as you are expected to interact with guests, build teams, control expenses as well as cook. I have five top tips for chefs on interviews:
Put simply, you need to do your homework. Find out about the company you will be seeing, the exec chef, the culinary style. Check out the menus. Try and eat in the restaurant if you have enough time in the days before the interview. What ingredients do the chefs use? Google is a great tool for research. Make sure you go into the meeting with as much knowledge as you can. It will help with the inevitable nerves. Make sure you know the venue for the interview and plan to leave with plenty of time in hand. Being late for an interview and stuck in traffic will put your blood pressure through the roof. Brush up on your basics because you may be asked how to make a blonde roux, a demiglace or a crème pâtissière. Get that wrong and you may see the door early.
I like to see a chef dress as a chef, so black pants, clean whites and shiny shoes. If you look like a chef you have an advantage already. But, be careful about having too many logos – you are not a Formula One driver. Tie back your hair, hide the tattoo depicting your ex-girlfriend and the Chinese writing that really says “sweet and sour pork and rice”. Be careful with piercings and big earrings. Don’t wear jeans and make sure there’s none of last night’s béarnaise sauce under your nails. Get the picture?
I love to see great photos of a chef’s work, like you see in Food and Home and Chef! Magazine, professionally taken and well-styled. A good tip would be to put together an online portfolio of work and a brochure type hand-out of your best work. Pick 8 – 10 photos and present them to the interviewer with a proud flourish. Do not steal anyone else’s work from the interwebs – a quick google image search will expose you as a plagiarist and a fraud.
Walk in with a purpose – no slouching, make eye contact and squeeze out a smile. Please don’t present your hand as the fish of the day, but a firm handshake please. Be professional, alert and answer questions in full; don’t give one word answers or “shaggy dog stories”- expand but do not overshare. Keep your ego in check but don’t forget to be confident about your talents. Oh, and no cussin’. You are not Gordon Ramsay
Be prepared for a cook off. This is an opportunity to show your skills. Most of our clients ask for a cook-off or a trial shift before making a final decision. This is a real chance to show the interviewers what you can do. Remember, they will watch your knife skills whilst you prep, your techniques, presentation and taste. A good idea would be to enter competitions with SA Chefs, which gives you plenty of opportunity to practise under pressure in front of critics. Even the top exec chefs are asked to do a practical test these days regardless of reputation and background.
Just one last thing, give some thought to who you would like to emulate or aspire to as a chef. Who are your role models? Most people would think themselves as Ramsay, Oliver, White, Roux or Nigella. But do not forget Dale-Roberts, Shnier, Higgs, Pearton, Dartnall, Cameron or Liebenberg.