Right now things are slowly getting back to normal and a lot of us are finally returning to work after this unplanned hiatus. This means that we are once again finding ourselves having to go through the whole interview process which, like dating, sucks even in the best of circumstances.
Lucky for you, I’ve already had to deal with this process more than anyone should and I’ve also been the guy with a stack of resumes sorting the pro’s from the posers and dealing with the no call no shows. The following should help you to stand out from the rest of the applicants and hopefully help you find a Kitchen you can thrive in.
Cover the basics in the cover letter.
If it’s a cut and paste cover letter, I’m going to figure it out after the first line. Take two minutes to look up the restaurant and write a few lines about why you think you would be a good fit for the place. This is your best chance to make a strong first impression and get my attention. Give me a reason to want to bring you on the team.
If the ad says to copy and paste your resume in the email, do that, don’t attach it because I’m not going to bother opening it. If the ad says not to call the restaurant and you do, I don’t give a shit if you have a letter of recommendation from Thomas Keller, you obviously can’t follow simple instructions and that means you’re going to be a headache.
Keep your resume simple.
When I post an ad, I know I’m going to get at least 30-50 responses under normal circumstances. All I want to know are the basics, the cliff notes. What are you trying to achieve, where have you cooked, what did you do? I don’t need or want an essay on how your grandmother’s waffles inspired you to go to culinary school. If I have any questions, I’ll make notes and ask during the interview.
Let’s say you really want a gig at a place but they’re not hiring? What do you do? You go in between 2-4 PM on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and tell whomever that you’re there to speak to the Chef. Make sure you know their name so you don’t sound like an idiot. The Chef won’t know who you are so just be polite, be honest and have a reason for wanting the job, other than just a paycheck. Chances are they have someone on the crew who isn’t pulling their weight and if you play your cards right, you might get pulled in for the audition.
Don’t be late.
Unless you call me with a valid reason that is beyond your control, if you’re late to the interview, don’t bother showing up. When you’re looking at maps, make sure you have a few minutes of flexibility so that you can find parking or whatever. If you’re late to the interview, you’re going to be late to work on a regular basis and that’s going to cause me stress. I don’t pay people to stress me out.
If I think you’re full of shit, I’m going to fuck with you. If I ask you a question and you’re not sure, be honest and admit it. Chances are, I’m not testing your culinary skill, I’m testing your character and integrity. It’s easy for me to teach you how to cook, I need to know if you have morals and can be trusted. If I smell bullshit in the interview, I won’t even bother calling you back.
Have your own knives.
Fuck you, I don’t want to hear bullshit excuses. I’m not expecting you to roll in with a thousand-dollar set of folded Japanese steel but do not look at me and call yourself a Chef if you don’t have at least one good knife of your own that you can do the majority of your tasks with. It’s a matter of respect for not only the craft of what we do but yourself as well. If you come to an audition and don’t have a knife I’m going to laugh at you and tell you to leave.
Side story: Six years ago I’m in Alaska and I get a brand new dishwasher. The kid says “Hey, I want to earn your respect, what do I do?” I told him point-blank “Show up on time, stay busy and go buy your own knife.”. The kid turned around and bought his first knife with his first paycheck ever and six years later, he’s still cooking and using that knife. So yes, I take it fucking seriously.
At this point, I’ve worked for several people who had less experience than I do but it was still their Kitchen and their way of doing things. Even if I disagreed, I still did things the way they wanted them done. I don’t give a shit what you learned in school or how they did things in your last Kitchen, that doesn’t matter to me. If you have feedback, there’s a time and place for it and I’m always open to new ideas, but if you cross the line thinking that you know better, you’ll be back to sending resumes before you know what hit you.
At the end of the day, it comes down to chemistry.
I’ve noticed over the years that, you can take the best musicians in the world and put together a supergroup and most of the time, they sound like shit for the simple fact that the group lacks real chemistry. At the same time, there are plenty of people who aren’t really that technically proficient yet, when they come together it’s magical because they just have a natural vibe with one another. It’s the same thing in the Kitchen. I’ve worked in numerous places that the term “Pirate Crew” would have been too polite, yet the food was fucking on point.
The point is, don’t just go for the best paying gig at the hottest new place in town, take the time to find a Kitchen that fits you. Yes, I get it, you need a job (so do I right now) and you might not be able to be picky but in general, if it’s an option, go audition at a few places and find a group of people you’ll enjoy spending the majority of your time with.