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Executive Chef interview questions and answers

This Executive Chef interview profile brings together a snapshot of what to look for in candidates with a balanced sample of suitable interview questions. Similar job titles include Chef.

Christine Del Castillo
Christine Del Castillo

Former Community Manager at Workable specialized in employee experience, talent brands and our event series, Workable Ideas.

executive-chef

10 good executive chef interview questions

  1. Describe the training that you have and how it relates to this position.
  2. In your experience, how does food cost factor into menu creation?
  3. What is your involvement with Purchasing and Receiving?
  4. List some of your favorite food vendors and why you like to work with them.
  5. What foods do you like to pair together and why?
  6. How does your winter menu differ from your spring menu?
  7. How do you control the quality of the food that goes out to customers?
  8. How do you take ownership over customers’ experience of your restaurant?
  9. What do you do when customers request ingredient substitutions?
  10. How do you handle special diets (such as gluten-free diets)?

Here are 10 essential interview questions and sample answers to help identify the best candidates for this role.

1. Describe the training that you have and how it relates to this position.

This question aims to understand the candidate’s educational and professional background and how it prepares them for the role of Executive Chef.

Sample answer:

“I have a degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu and over 10 years of experience in various culinary roles. My training has equipped me with the skills needed to manage a kitchen, create menus, and lead a team.”

2. In your experience, how does food cost factor into menu creation?

This question assesses the candidate’s understanding of budgeting and cost control in menu planning.

Sample answer:

“Food cost is a critical factor in menu creation. I always aim for a food cost percentage of around 28-32%. I focus on seasonal ingredients to keep costs low and flavors fresh.”

3. What is your involvement with Purchasing and Receiving?

This question gauges the candidate’s experience with inventory management and supplier relations.

Sample answer:

“I work closely with suppliers to negotiate prices and ensure timely deliveries. I also oversee the receiving process to check the quality of ingredients.”

4. List some of your favorite food vendors and why you like to work with them.

This question helps to understand the candidate’s network and their criteria for choosing vendors.

Sample answer:

“I enjoy working with local farms because they provide fresh, organic produce. For seafood, I prefer vendors who practice sustainable fishing.”

5. What foods do you like to pair together and why?

This question delves into the candidate’s culinary creativity and understanding of flavors.

Sample answer:

“I love pairing earthy flavors with bright acids—like beetroot with goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. It creates a balanced and exciting palate.”

6. How does your winter menu differ from your spring menu?

This question assesses the candidate’s adaptability and seasonal awareness in menu planning.

Sample answer:

“In winter, I focus on hearty, warming dishes like stews and roasts. Spring menus are lighter, featuring fresh vegetables and grilled meats.”

7. How do you control the quality of the food that goes out to customers?

This question evaluates the candidate’s attention to detail and quality control measures.

Sample answer:

“I conduct regular taste tests and insist on plate inspections before the food leaves the kitchen. I also train my team to maintain high standards.”

8. How do you take ownership over customers’ experience of your restaurant?

This question explores the candidate’s customer service philosophy.

Sample answer:

“I believe that the dining experience starts the moment a guest walks in. From the ambiance to the service and food, every detail matters.”

9. What do you do when customers request ingredient substitutions?

This question assesses the candidate’s flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Sample answer:

“I try to accommodate substitutions whenever possible, without compromising the dish’s integrity. Customer satisfaction is a priority.”

10. How do you handle special diets (such as gluten-free diets)?

This question gauges the candidate’s inclusivity and adaptability in menu planning.

Sample answer:

“I always have gluten-free options on the menu and train my staff to handle special requests with care to avoid cross-contamination.”

What does a good executive chef candidate look like?

A strong Executive Chef candidate should have a blend of culinary expertise, managerial skills, and a deep understanding of financial aspects like cost control. They should also be creative, adaptable, and customer-focused.



Executive Chef Interview Questions

Much of what you’re looking for in your new Executive Chef won’t be on his or her resume. These interview questions are written to help you evaluate important attributes, such as leadership skills, resourcefulness, and business savvy. A seasoned chef should be able to build, train and supervise a team of cooks, establish relationships with food vendors, and design a menu that factors in the cost and availability of ingredients. Chefs are responsible for hiring their own team and purchasing ingredients, so they should keep a close eye on the budget and make adjustments if necessary. 

Above all, a restaurant is a hospitality environment, and the chef you hire should be highly involved in creating a positive experience for your customers. Questions such as “how would you handle special diets?” or “how would you deal with a disappointed customer?” will tell you a lot about a candidate’s willingness to provide a high level of customer service.

Depending on the type of establishment you have, there may be other things you’re looking for, such as expertise in a specific cuisine or experience with a specific type of customer. You can tailor these questions accordingly. Ideally, your candidates will have already taken these factors into account and will be prepared with questions that show that they have a strong understanding of who you’re looking to hire. They will also be able to speak at length about any relevant or notable achievements at previous establishments.

Let’s summarize some of the questions and add a few more divided into specific types.

Operational and Situational questions

  • Describe the training that you have and how it relates to this position.
  • In your experience, how does food cost factor into menu creation?
  • What is your involvement with Purchasing and Receiving?
  • List some of your favorite food vendors and why you like to with them.
  • What foods do you like to pair together and why?
  • How does your winter menu differ from your spring menu?
  • How do you control the quality of the food that goes out to customers?
  • How do you take ownership over customers’ experience of your restaurant?
  • What do you do when customers request ingredient substitutions?
  • How do you handle special diets (such as gluten free diets)?
  • Recall a time you handled a situation with a disappointed customer.
  • How do you keep labor costs under control?
  • Describe your approach to hiring staff. What do you look for?
  • Recall a time that you fired someone. Why did you do it?
  • How involved are you in managing your cooks?
  • Describe your experience with multicultural and multilingual teams.
  • Recall a time you resolved a conflict with a difficult employee.
  • Recall someone who you have trained or mentored. Where did they start? Where are they now?
  • How would you improve our establishment?

 

Frequently asked questions

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