Tag Archives: consultant chef

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!

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The Nasty Bits

imagesI was reading an interview with a chef recently who when asked for his favorite quote replied “you can’t polish a turd”. Despite bringing to mind the Coogee Bay Hotel saga (go on, Google it) in my opinion he’s right. And wrong… It’s near impossible to take something that is bad quality and make it into something fine dining but what is the definition of a ‘shit’ ingredient? Too many people equate high quality with the choice cuts, the expensive parts; so much of the definition of what is good and bad is dependent on what is in fashion at the time. What makes a fillet for example ‘better’ than a trotter or the tail, because it’s fast or easy? If you go back a while lamb shanks were discarded or animal food, in the 90’s lamb shanks were on everyone’s menu. The same can be said about oxtail and pork belly, although some things like tripe have never come into the mainstream of what is cool. I think there has been a fascination towards the ‘nasty bits’ as Anthony Bourdain has put it; that which was made edible through invention born of necessity many years ago has become somewhat desirable. Take for example the popularity of St. Johns and the nose to tail books.

Cooking is all about transformation. In its simplest form it is the transformation of something inedible to edible through the direct application of heat. When our ancestors discovered fire and the most rudimentary forms of cooking it’s what allowed us to have a high protein diet and made our brains grow bigger (so I’m lead to believe). Anyone can take a piece of beautifully marbled prime beef fillet and with the most basic of instruction produce something sellable. Taking something that most people would normally throw away and turning it into something delicious that people would pay a premium for is where the true skill lies (and also helps the bank balance). A terrine made of all the odds and ends that normally end up in the bin can be a thing of beauty. Where is the skill in taking something already great and turning it into something that is equally great. If you have the most amazing ingredients then why bother transforming them at all? A beautiful piece of freshly caught Tuna or Salmon, all you need to do is slice it and put it on a plate, is it really any better after you’ve seared the edges? That comes down to someone’s personal taste but if you cook it to well done surely it is ruined.

Using “bad” ingredients is good for the world. I hate to think how much food is put into the bin every single day. If anyone thinks that wastage doesn’t matter they should read the chapter in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry entitled “the importance of rabbits”. I read that and couldn’t agree more. I think people are blasé about throwing food in the bin because it has become all too easy, there’s no work in making food anymore. I know of someone who was a “vegetarian” but would eat meat if it was ground into mince but refused to touch it without gloves, but was then quite happy to ingest it. No doubt well done and with an abundance of processed tomato sauce. How did we become so disassociated with where our food comes from?

Food is what comes out of the box and into the microwave, chicken is what you get skinless and boneless and vacuum packed in the poultry section of the supermarket. I wonder would you think twice throwing away that drumstick if you had to grow the chicken, feed it for months, pluck it and had to have looked it in the eye as you brought down the axe…? But that’s the reality, animals need to die in order for us to have the pleasure of eating them and the very least we can do is have the respect to make sure we use every part. And in today’s economic climate with people concerned about increasing costs and decreased revenue as a chef it also makes economic sense.

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