Category Archives: Hospitality

Lion huntress Melissa Bachman and wild food

hardcore huntressThis is not a hunting blog, although recently reading the furor that has gone viral on the internet after pictures of “hardcore huntress” Melissa Bachman with her trophy lion, being a chef I got thinking about the ethics involved in where our food comes from and people’s opinions regarding this. It is an interesting debate regarding wild food and the ethics surrounding it. 

I read the comments of one of the articles and this picture has certainly enraged some people and has sparked some pretty intense debate. Lions are officially a “vulnerable species” with much of their range being reduced outside of national and game parks, most likely due to human encroachment. Bachman apparently shot this lion on a game park where people pay up to tens of thousands of dollars to shoot one of the “big five” African game species. There seems to be two distinct arguments from people, one is that she shouldn’t be shooting a lion and the other is that nobody should be shooting anything. As far as I am concerned, yes nobody should be shooting any animal which is at any sort of threat of being endangered and I think most people would agree upon this.   That nobody should be shooting anything… well this I am not sure about. 

I think in our world of convenience a lot of people have a disassociation between food and where it actually comes from, ie meat comes from a living, breathing animal. I think that a boneless, skinless chicken breast in plastic wrap sitting on the pak n sav poulty section is so far removed from what was a few days before a walking breathing and feathered chicken that people have forgotten this fact. If you are a person who eats meat, why then would you be opposed to hunting? If an animal in the wild is shot in the correct place with an appropriate sized rifle and  therefore dies a fast and humane death then what makes this worse than factory farmed animals? red deerPersonally if you asked me what I would rather be re-incarnated into, would it be an animal that was born in captivity, fed an artificial diet possibly full of steroids to make me grow fast, lived my entire (short) life in a cage before being jammed into the back of a truck before being stunned, bled and then processed OR would it be an animal born into the wild and living free before one day being shot in the head, well that’s a no brainer (sorry no pun intended…). If an animal such as red deer which are plentiful (and actually considered a “pest” by the New Zealand Department of Conservation) are shot and humanely killed with none of the meat wasted then what’s the difference between that and the cow that ends up as sirloin steak in the supermarket? Perhaps because it’s a little bit more in your face and shows the reality of the food chain? Perhaps we have come to a point in time where meat from a cow is now more associated with a Quarter Pounder than the thing that eats grass and goes moo?hot dogs Now if you want to see something really disgusting you should google how a hot dog is made, although I doubt anyone would think twice about ordering one at the rugby but they might think twice about looking a cow in the eye and pulling the trigger. But that’s how it works, people have to kill living creatures in order for us to eat them, maybe even after they have been processed, mechanically reclaimed and emulsified with water, colour and preservatives before being made into hot dog or sausage patty shapes and then making their way into everyone’s Sausage McMuffin… Compare that with wild game which has grazed on a natural and superior diet which results in a better flavoured and higher quality meat.

I think the only people who can argue against sustainable, humane and ethical hunting would be vegans. I respect anyone who has an opinion based on moral grounds and sticks to their guns, I can appreciate that. Anyone else, well it’s a bit hypocritical arguing against hunting when it’s just someone else who is doing your killing for you, isn’t it??? 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

Why do staff leave? (Or how to get the most out of your staff).

Why do people leave?

Hospitality traditionally has a high level of staff turnover. Why is this? In part it is inherent in the job. Hospitality has a lower average wage then most professions, has longer working hours, is stressful and has hot and difficult working conditions.  If you can create loyalty by looking after your staff, motivate them and give them good job satisfaction you can minimize it.  

It makes sense to hire the right people and try to hold onto them as long as you can. The hiring process costs money and training staff takes time and money.  The recruitment process can cost a lot of money and if you hire the wrong person it can end up costing your business big time, especially if you decide later on that they need to go. Identifying candidates who share the same core values as yourself and are going to work well within the culture of your business is of the utmost importance.

 

Why do people work?

To get money…? Because they have to…? It is true that we all have bills to pay and we all have to work but a lot of people work because they want to. The trick is to finding out what it is that people want and how the needs of the individual and the business can combine for mutual benefit.

 

What motivates people?

When I first stepped into a management position it was “my way or the highway”.  I have since learned that there is not one management style that works for everyone or will get the most out of every employee. Your management style needs to be flexible and change according to the situation and the people you are managing. There is a book called “The Human Side of Enterprise,” published in 1960 by Douglas McGregor. It takes the assumption that people inherently do not want to work and will avoid doing so at all times so one must maintain a system of control to force people to do that which they dislike or understand. So the solution to this is to impose rules and regulations to force people to work and to punish any deviation. But like Princess Leia says: “The more you tighten your gripTarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” To get the most out of your staff you need to find ways to make them WANT to work. You can’t play prison warden all of the time.

 In my experience the best solutions are pro-active. Stop a problem before it becomes one by identifying the root cause. Problems at work and staff dissatisfaction are like a creeper. First the seed is sewn then it grows one shoot, then from that first shoot it begins to branch out, each new growing creating more branches. The stem becomes strong and the foundation of all the other branches and they start taking over other plants. People want to feel wanted, feel important, needed. If you can give someone a sense of worth and responsibility they will often rise to the challenge.

 

So, how do you get the most out of your staff?

Being autocratic? Sometimes in a kitchen this is the only way forward but one needs to be flexible and there is a time and a place. When in service and the shit’s hitting the fan you need a strong leader who is going to make decisive decisions and lead from the front. During the battle of service is not the time for consultations. Overall the effects of this style of management is lack of motivation as staff aren’t involved in the decision making process. It promotes a lack of initiative because they are deterred from making independent decisions. Another likely result is lowered productivity because staff are dependent on the manager to make any decision for fear of being wrong. A management style that dissuades input from staff is ignoring a business’s most valuable resource: its employees.

 

It is important to have clearly defined rules and boundaries and to give people freedom to make decisions within these boundaries. But there has to be follow up and give good feedback. If you have your line in the sand which can’t be crossed, it often helps if people know WHYPeople have to be made accountable for not just things they do wrong but for the things they do right. Maybe this being recognized for doing tasks beyond and above the call of duty or even just doing everything perfect day in day out. Maybe even recognize people for giving it their 100% even if not perfect. What can be very frustrating and demoralizing is working extra hours, trying your best and not only not being recognized but still told off. This is very counter-productive.

 

Some people refuse to be managed or motivated. Maybe they never developed a good work ethic, are in the wrong job or have some other personal problem that stops them from performing at work. If you have to stand over someone and constantly bully them into doing their job then sometime it’s best for everyone to be honest and go your separate ways.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

Top 5 tips for food photography with the iPhone

scallopsEver made or seen a dish that looks amazing but none of the photos you took do it justice? Most of us don’t carry around or own expensive cameras but smart phones these days have quite decent cameras and can take good quality photos. Follow these simple tips to help make your food shots look as best as they can.

1 – Use your grid

If you enable the grid on your camera it can help you be more precise when taking your photo. When taking a shot try to place a point of interest on one of the grid intersections to draw in the eye.

2 – Natural light

Whenever you can make sure you use natural light. If you have a high quality SLR camera or some light set ups then it doesn’t matter. But if like most of us the only thing you have on hand is the camera from your smart phone then natural light will give you the best quality picture.

3 – Rule of thirds

This is where the grid also comes in to play. Food photos look best if they have 1/3 negative space or background with 2/3 of the frame being the subject matter. The only time you would not apply this rule is if you are doing close up shots.

4 – Check your dish

Shoot your dish quick. Sauces run, salads wilt, garnishs become soggy so make sure everything is ready to go before hand and take your pics when the food is at it’s best. If you are taking a pic of a salad or vegetables you can spray with water to give a fresh look.

5 – Choose your angle

There are a few simple ways to frame your food picture that will look nice:

-Centered, From above, Angled, Diagonal and Close-Up.

For me all these work very well and my default go to if all other angles look strange is to shoot directly from above. Just ensure that if whatever you are shooting is square you rotate your camera so to avoid any parallel lines.

See the gallery below for some examples!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

7 Comments

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

Maldives and the environment

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Stunning white beaches, pristine sands, crystal clear water… this is the view that I am sure the Tourism board wants you to see, and for the most part is true. However how rubbish is dealt with in the Maldives has shocked me. I am not an expert in the field of environment or waste management, but I have eyes and I also think I have good common sense and it doesn’t take a scientist to realise that if you keep polluting and don’t have a proper plan for dealing with your rubbish and put it into practice you are going to fuck the world.

IMG_1483

Nappies and other rubbish on the beach

IMG_0193

Floating rubbish sharing the water with the fish we eat

Although the Maldives is not a first world country one would still think it would be prudent to take care of the ocean since it is where the majority of the food comes from. Being a chef this is something that concerns me and I think about often. Fishing makes up a very large percentage of the economy and the water is also the draw card for the tourism industry (which makes up over half of the economy). There seems to be a total disregard for littering and a lack of caring. The majority of rubbish gets sent to Thila Fushi (aka rubbish island) where rubbish is piled on rubbish upon more rubbish stacked dangerously close to the water’s edge, and that rubbish that isn’t stacked up is burned releasing huge plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. Not all of it goes straight up but drifts; something I realised as the pungent smell assaulted my senses and burned the back of my throat as we sailed past in a ferry one day.

I truly think a lot of it comes down to education. Nobody seems to care. Even the “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn’t work if the problem has got so large that you can’t help but see it. I have seen a boat driver throw his rubbish out of the window into the sea without a care in the world and a woman in Male throw her empty drink container onto the ground after her small child had finished with it. Apparently ‘floating rubbish’ is an issue and with actions and attitudes like this it is not a surprise.

IMG_0080

Eventually some of the floating rubbish gets washed up

With most of the Maldives being under 3ft above sea level this country especially should be concerned about caring for the environment, global warming and rising sea levels. If for no other reason than self-preservation. I’m not sure what the answer is but if people aren’t educated and change their ways and start caring about their environment then maybe there won’t be too much left to care about sooner than we think.

IMG_1494

Rubbish dumped on the beach

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality, Travel

Working in “Paradise”…

Living and working on a tropical island

DSC_1735The standard remark from people when I tell them where I work is “wow it must be great working in paradise!” Although I think people forget that working somewhere and being on holiday there are two completely different experiences! Working somewhere with a stunning view is great but unless you manage to have a good life/work balance then the inside of the kitchen walls all look the same no matter which part of the world they are in.

Problems and solutions

Living on an island can feel a little bit like Alcatraz sometimes and the boarding school mentality can sometimes set it. The saying “don’t shit where you sleep” is not applicable in these circumstances! It is important to stay away from the gossip and the politics for once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny. Make sure you get your own space so you can separate yourself from work. Working and living on site can be great because you’re nice and close to work and can be at work quickly if something goes tits up, but it can also be difficult because you’re nice and close to work and are often back at work quickly when things go tits up. Whether you go for a swim, go to the gym, play some Xbox or go on a day trip, it is a really good idea to get a break from the scenery, the people and the work to mentally recharge your batteries.

Different cultures

People in different parts of the world work and live in different ways. A multi-national kitchen brigade is no different. Often some nationalities will naturally have difficulties working together due to cultural differences. There are often language barriers also. It can also be a struggle sometimes trying to manage a diverse group of people. For example in one person’s culture it may be disrespectful to give someone a “no” answer, so one needs to take this into consideration when asking questions such as “is all the prep done?”  Or “did you follow the recipe?” As a manager it is up to you to learn the right approach to get the best out of your staff and understand and embrace these cultural differences.

Logistics

Working in a remote location or a semi-remote location poses a number of issues that one takes for granted when working in a city. When working in the CBD of a modern city you expect to be able to place your order at the end of the night, for the delivery to arrive by a set time in the morning and for the quantity and product to be correct and for the item to be of good quality. In remote locations, despite all your morals pointing away from it, sometimes you have no choice but to work out of the freezer. Perhaps you can only get a seafood or meat delivery one time a week or maybe even longer. You need to make a choice; do we buy in chilled and either run the risk of running out or serving old product? Not serve meats at all, or serve pre-frozen meats and defrost them carefully in the chiller overnight? Because of your location you sometimes have to make these difficult decisions. Often it is best to look at what’s available and work with that rather than trying to do something that is often unavailable or bad quality and end up pulling your hair out. All that you can do is do your best with what you’ve got.

Pros

IMG_1113Working on an island (third time for me now) can be a very rewarding and challenging experience. If you go back to civilization then things do seem a hell of a lot easier! Make sure you try to make the most of what you have and enjoy it while you can. Don’t focus on the negatives and how you would like things, go with the flow and embrace that which you do have, not stress over what you don’t.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality, Travel

Moet and Magret

General Manager vs Chef, Centara Ras Fushi

DSC_4087

GM back in the whites: slipping on the chef’s jacket like slipping into a warm bath

It seemed like a great idea at the time, although 13 hours in with sore legs and sweating like a fat kid in a candy store I was wondering the soundness of my decision. Having recently come to the Maldives I had last worked with my General Manager 8 years ago when he was my Executive Chef and I was a CDP with considerably fresher legs and lower cholesterol. Considering how much effort it now takes me to get to the bottom of the service fridge and how painful a once normal split shift has become, I was looking forward to seeing my old chef don his whites and sweat it out in the kitchen one more time. We took over the Italian restaurant and show kitchen and created a 5 course menu for the night. Avoiding cooking for a full restaurant alone Hell’s Kitchen styles we sensibly took 2 courses each: myself scallops and duck, Ulrich prawns and dessert; the winner decided by popular vote. With pride on the line and the promise of some champagne we sharpened the knives and started cooking. 

And so it begins…

DSC_4031

Sautéed king prawns, mussel salad and roast capsicum gazpacho w fennel seed wafer

DSC_4035DSC_3989

DSC_4063

Moet & Chandon & passion fruit palette cleanser

Pork and scallops w pea puree and salted caramel

Szechuan pork belly and scallops w pancetta, pea puree and salted caramel

Confit duck plate up

Confit duck w porcini risotto, sugar cured breast, star anise foam and coffee hazelnut praline

DSC_4138

Make sure you don’t forget to drizzle…

DSC_4148

Ulrich’s dessert: Flambe peach w strawberry Swiss roll and vanilla bean ice cream

 And the winner is…..        

With a ballot system reminiscent of the Florida election 2000 the GM wins. Until next time… But now it’s time for a drink!

2 Comments

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

Restaurant Jekyll and Hyde

photo(1)The restaurant industry is a strange and fickle beast. A reputation can take years upon years of hard slog, blood, sweat and possibly tears (literally) to create and only seconds to destroy. Ever heard of the saying “you’re only as good as your last dish”? This is usually followed by “and right now, you’re a c**t”… In order to run a successful restaurant or kitchen to a consistently high standard you need to be like the gestapo; eyes and ears everywhere and know EVERYTHING that goes on with EVERYONE. There’s two things the X-Files and kitchens have in common. They’re both full of strange interesting characters living in the fringes of society and they both have the same tagline: Trust NO-ONE. Or as one of my first chef’s eloquently put: “don’t trust any fu**er”… (chef’s are well known for their colourful language; it’s one of the things that makes us so interesting right?). If for one second you decide to turn your back, think “yeah nothing’s happening now until our late bookings, I can nip out for a cigarette”, that’s when your commis chef will accidentally send out the medium rare chicken and fuck everything up for you. You need to be anal in the extreme. Nothing should go out unless it’s up to your standard. This will not make you friends. But this will give you happy customers. Hopefully. If you are really lucky you will have some allies in the kitchen who will be your eyes and ears. People who “get you”, understand what your standard is and how you work. Know your pet hates. Hang onto these people and look after them because they are more valuable than their weight in gold. They will certainly make your life a hell of a lot easier and hopefully mean you can do less than 70hrs per week.

What does it take to piss off a customer? Sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing. I find it very interesting how people behave in restaurants and bars. I’m sure it would make a very good psychology paper for someone. It seems to me that hospitality is the only industry in which people feel like they can turn into pricks the second they walk through the door. Seemingly normal and respectable people, people with families and jobs; they have the ability to turn into monsters inside the doors where alcohol and food are served. Maybe it’s something to do with wanting to wind down and relax that somehow the rules of the outside world don’t apply. I have narrowed it down to a few cliche customer types that seem to appear no matter where you go:

Sir grab-a-lot – These are the guys that try and slap the waitresses arses and use such stunning lines as “so whats the cream sauce like? How would you like to try my cream sauce sweet heart?”. A restaurant is not a strip bar. And everybody knows that the golden rule in a strip bar is no touching. Unless you are VIP…

Aggressive drunk – “What do you mean you can only serve me a glass of water?! I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough!” (falls over taking a bar stool with him). This is where you hope you work in a dodgy enough place so as to have a bouncer.

Chronic complainer – The food’s too hot, the wine’s too cold, I don’t like my table, the people over there are laughing too much, I don’t like anything on the menu, this costs too much etc…I remember once have a dish sent back because it wasn’t hot enough, it was pretty hot so we heated it again, and back it came, so we nuked the shit out of it and it still came back. I’m sorry but on this planet with this atmosphere the hottest I can get a liquid before it turns to steam so unless you are on another planet (which you quite possibly are) then I can’t do much more for you.

Cheater – This is the person who tries tricks like orders a drink from one person, hides the glass and then complains to another person that they never got it. Or order the steak, eat 90% of it and then complain it’s under cooked.

Menu changers – “Can I have the fish but without the spice crust, the sauce from the beef and do you do paella? Can I have some paella with it too? I’m allergic to onion, garlic, salt, chilli and herbs.” I would suggest eating at home…

Vegans (et al) – Now not to say anything against vegans, I actually respect proper vegans or anyone who has decided that something is morally wrong and stick to their guns. I think a hell of a lot of animals are treated badly on their journey ending on our tables, that’s why I try my best to make sure that I know where my ingredients come from, how they’re produced and whether or not they’re sustainable without a negative affect on the environment. However if you are a vegan do not come to a steak house and then complain.

Cheap skates and hagglers – If you buy petrol and then drive off without paying you would expect to get arrested. ‘Doing a runner’ is what other people would call ‘stealing from a restaurant’. And unless you are on Khao San Road in Bangkok or in another acceptable place such as Saigon or Mumbai then don’t haggle. You don’t go to the dentist and haggle and the prices they charge are mental so why haggle over a sandwich?!

Money flashers – “I will have the Wagyu well done and your most expensive MerloTT,make sure it’s well chilled and hurry up about it” = Plonker.

Bill splitters – Is there anything more dreadful to hear to a cashier than “can we split the bill 12 ways?” Paying up should be a quick and painless experience, not a torturous ordeal with detailed investigations and discussions. If you must split the bill evenly and if you are a large group consider cash. Having to individually itemise a large party’s dishes and then have to split the fries or a bottle of wine by 3/7th’s because someone only had “half of one glass” and someone else had “2 and 1/3 glasses” it a total nightmare.

The internet food expert – It is amazing how the anonymity of the internet allows people with no qualifications in restaurant reviewing the opportunity to express their expertise. Yet these same people will not complain in person when given the chance to actually address their issue and maybe enjoy their night. “How is your meal?” “Fine thank you…” and then the next day you read on the internet a post headed: “Disgusting food and rubbish service, never again”. I remember one table of two ordered lamb cutlets so we roast a whole rack and then carved it for both. One of the two said it was perfect and his wife said it was undercooked. Our offer of cooking it some more was declined. The next day I read on the internet how I told them to “just shut up and eat it”… At least it made for a more interesting story than the truth!

Other hospos – Believe it or not we are actually our own worse enemies. People in the restaurant industry work hard and usually “play hard”. The group of people with tattoo’s who are obviously intoxicated, breaking furniture, stealing alcohol and shagging in the toilets? They probably work at the restaurant down the road…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

Why I love Thai food

 DSC_1917

As I sit at the over water bar on my day off, computer on my lap and cocktail in my hand, I turn to my wife and ask what “would you like to do for dinner?” This is always a big decision for me and sometimes drives my wife up the bend. Despite what most people think about chefs, I am not a fussy eater, I will try almost anything and enjoy any food no matter how simple or humble if it is done well. Deciding what to eat sometimes can be a big decision; sometimes it’s all so good! “Let’s have Thai” my wife responds and I happily agree.

View from Italian looking over pool bar

I am all about Thai food right now and have always appreciated it since trying “real Thai” during my first posting in Asia. When at Pacific Regency hotel in KL I had the pleasure of overseeing a Thai restaurant. Luckily for me the whole Thai kitchen brigade were Thai and were led by a very talented cook Alex (real name unknown). Most of the experiences I had (thought) I had with Thai food back home had actually been watered down and “westernized” versions of stock standard Thai staples. Often cooked by non-Thai and executed poorly.

2155_122871980579_30_n

Why do I have such a soft spot for Thai food? Perhaps it reminds me of good times. It’s fresh and spicy with clean, vibrant and clearly defined flavors;  many things that many great dishes aspire to be irrespective of style or country of origin. It has appeal to everyone, whether sitting in the fine dining Thai restaurant on the 23rd story of my old hotel in KL with my then girlfriend (later my fiancee then wife) or sitting with old friends in a car park on cheap plastic tables and chairs in Bangkok it’s just so goddamn enjoyable. Apparently there’s a chemical in chili’s which react with the receptors in the tongue the same way as heat (no shit) and register as burning, this pain causes the body to release endorphin’s. So it’s fresh, spicy and gives you endorphin’s… what more could you want?!

2 Comments

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

How to make it as a chef…

Image

Being a chef is one of those jobs that many people think would be cool but don’t understand the reality of the industry. With the recent explosion in the last few years of cooking shows, reality TV and the rise of the celebrity chef, it is a career path that has become glorified by the few who make a living totally unlike the other 99% of people who do this “noble toil”. I think back to when I did my chef training and the motley crew of (mostly) rejects of society who for a plethora of reasons (if any) decided to start down the path of culinary glory. Or perhaps they just didn’t have the grades to get into uni.

So without further ado here is my list for:

How to make it as a chef

(or how to not get yelled at and possibly fired when working in a kitchen).

Look the part

The first step in being a chef is looking like a chef. How you present yourself reflects on how you will work. If you turn up looking like you have slept in your uniform and don’t care enough to have had a shower or shaved then chances are you also don’t care too much about your work.

Work clean

Nobody wants to work with a messy chef, how you look and work is an insight into your present state of mind. If you look a mess and your work station is a mess then your thoughts are probably a mess. In which case you probably won’t be able to work in a logical and organised manner and then you are a liability to yourself and those around you.

Do as you are told

When working in a kitchen one needs to understand it is a high pressure environment with very real and serious time constraints. There is nothing more annoying than someone with an opinion you didn’t ask for. Opinions are like arseholes; everybody’s got one. Assume your head chef/sous chef didn’t get where they were by being an idiot so if they tell you a specific way of doing something then it’s best to do it. When you’ve spend years learning your craft and are in a position to do things your way then you can tell people how you want things (and hope they do as they’re told…)

Keep it to yourself

(or don’t trust any fucker)

When working a busy service there is nothing more annoying than someone telling you their life story when asked a quick simple question. The longest response generally accepted in a very busy service is of two words in length; yes chef, no chef or 2 minutes are the safest answers. This goes for when prepping as well, if someone is pissing you off then the best bet is to assume whatever you tell someone it will get back to them. The safest topics are girls, sports and taking the piss out of the junior staff/waiters.

Be reliable

If your chef asks you to do something and you do it when and how you said you would then you will be a real asset. I mentioned already not to trust anyone, if you become the person that the chef can trust then you will go places. Be reliable with your time and attendance. The work in the kitchen is very time sensitive and isn’t like any other job where if you leave on Friday then the work will still be there on your desk on Monday. If you do a dreaded ‘no show’ at work or turn up late then other people will have to pick up your slack and do your work and possibly even get the feared phone call on your day off. Do this enough times and your team will start to resent you, stop helping you when you are ‘in the weeds’, be apathetic if they see somethings of yours in the oven about to burn or even be pro active in stitching you up. Moral of the story is: turn up to work!

Don’t chase the money

The work might suck, the money is rubbish, your head chef may be a prick, but if you’re learning something and progressing your career then stick it out. Think about the long term. If you work in respected places learning from good chefs then you can go far. The wider your base the further you can reach. Think about what you want to do and where you want to go and make a plan on how you’re going to get there then execute it. If you get fed up and throw in the towel early in your career when the work is the toughest then that is as far as you will go. Stick it out and have a plan and who knows, you might even make it to the top.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality

How to not get a job…

imagesI am currently on the hunt for a Sous chef. Again. The last one did not survive unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t matter how nice a guy you are, if you are not up to scratch then you’re not up to scratch, personal feelings can’t enter into business decisions in the kitchen. This is probably why there are so many successful arseholes out there, because luckily for them they can cook! So I am sieving through a pile of CV’s that have been sent to me and would like to share some tips from the years of applying for jobs (successfully and several unsuccessfully) and also the countless CV’s I have read and interviews I have conducted.

Top 10 CV, Cover Letter and Interview tips for chefs

1)      Keep it simple

Cover letters I do not really read unless I am interested in their CV. Almost all job applications are done online via email these days so a simple 3 or 4 line statement briefly outlining your relevant experience for the job you are applying for. Don’t use multiple colours or bizarre goofy fonts. These just make you look unprofessional. Are you applying for a job as a kick arse professional chef or for a job at a day care centre? If everyone else is like me then they do not have time to read through a multitude of CV’s in great detail. Keep it relevant, briefly outline your skills, qualifications and experience in chronological order starting with the most recent and work backwards. Nobody needs to have a half page detailing your duties when a commis II in cold kitchen in 1989. Also unless you are applying for your first job then nobody gives a fuck what you did at high school/primary school etc.

2)      Do your research

Address the cover letter to the person you are sending your CV to. So many times my name has been in the job posting yet people still address their cover letters to “dear sir/madam”. This shows that they haven’t bothered to read the ad properly or have just copied/pasted, which is fine but you should personalize to each new job application. Check out the place’s website, ask some people what it’s like, why would you want to apply for a job if you don’t even know what the position or property is? It could be a shit hole!

3)      Do not kiss arse.

Here is an excerpt from a BAD cover letter:

“DEAR.Sir / Madam
Good to meet you. I galddnes my heart to be able to reach an icon lile you. I currently seek for kind of better chef job specially in hotels/ restaurants/ cruise line/pravite chef.
I will be so greatful for your kind assistance and connection made on my behalf to make my dreams and aspiration come through.”

How can it bring galddnes to your heart to send me your CV if you know so little about me that you are not sure if I am a man or a woman? Maybe he’s seen my photo and things I am trans-gender? (mental note: review all profile pics) I appreciate you trying to cast the net wide however I am not advertising for a cruise line or a pravite chef so why mention this? Maybe pravite chef is supposed to say depraved chef? Maybe I’ll take a look at his CV after all…

4)      Spell check!

I cannot stress this enough. One of the funniest mistakes I often see in a CV is something like:

“Englash skills: reeding and writting – both excrelment” = CV straight into the bin.

5)      Make sure you actually attach your CV

How can someone look at your CV if you have forgotten to attach it? Make sure that if there are any specific requirements that the advertiser has asked for you have or if something is borderline (i.e. they have requested a minimum 5yrs experience but you have only 4) then maybe the cover letter is a good place to address this. Make sure your CV is in a standard format such as .doc or .pdf file. Txt files on notepad look like shit and if the format is a bizarre one that isn’t common they probably won’t be able to open it. Having to chase people up to try and give them a job sucks and most people won’t bother

So, you’ve made it to the interview…

6)      Be prepared

If you do happen to get an interview then the best thing you can do is be prepared. Think about why you want the job, why you would be good at it, why they should hire you and what relevant skills and experience you can bring to the position. A good reason for applying for a job is not that “it is close to my house”… fuck me that’s inspirational.

7)      Dress appropriately.

One prospective candidate for a Sous chef position turned up to his interview in scruffy jeans, a hoody, hadn’t shaved or possibly showered and hadn’t even bothered to finish his can of coke before he came through the door. Is this the person I wish to hire in a senior position of responsibility? I never did talk to him to find out. First impressions are so so important; make sure you make a good one!

8)      Turn up on time.

If for some bizarre reason you are going to be late then always make sure you phone ahead to let them know. If you can’t turn up to an interview before you’re employed then what will it be like in 6 months of being employed?

9)      Relax.

I know job interviews can be stressful but being calm, cool and collected give a much better indication of how you will handle your duties than if you are sweating and nervous. Of course make sure you don’t over-do it and come off as too cocky! It will help you relax if you follow point number 6.

10)   Take it like a man.

Someone once said to me “you’re not a man til you’ve had a man”. This is not the case with interviews. You can usually get a pretty good feeling how an interview has gone by the end and whether you’ve tanked, you’ve aced it or it’s 50/50. If you feel things have gone well then there is nothing wrong with sending a quick email saying “thank you for taking the time to interview me, I enjoyed meeting you and am excited about the position. If you have any further questions for me or wish for me to come in for a trial please feel free to contact me.” If you haven’t heard back in 3-4 weeks you can safely assume that they have probably gone with someone else. Harassing people will not help you get the job, this only makes you look desperate/crazy and may affect any future jobs with the same company. I have been unsuccessful for one position but then contacted again later by the same employer when another one opened up that they thought I would be suited to, so it always pays never to burn your bridges.

Good luck and go hard or go home!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Hospitality