Hire a chef in India – Doing it the Right Way

“How to hire a chef in India?”. “How many types of chefs are there in a restaurant?”. “How many chefs are needed in a restaurant?”.

If you find yourself asking these questions then you’ve landed at the right place. Restaurant chefs are like co-pilots of a plane. You can’t fly without them. They are the sole reason why restaurants are synonymous to delectable food. And hiring a chef can be a task if not done in the right manner. 

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is the difference between a chef and a cook?

Did you know that chefs and cooks are not the same people? 

Both work closely in the kitchen however, their responsibilities are different. Chefs lead the back-of-house operations. They are responsible for organizing and managing major functions like working on new dishes for the menu. Typically, chefs have an educational qualification or training in this field. 

On the other hand, cooks are the people who assist head chefs and sous chefs in the preparation of food. They don’t contribute to creating new recipes, rather they follow the instructions of head chefs. Each kitchen counter has an assigned cook, for example, the grill section will have its own cook who will particularly be involved in the grilling process or Fry cooks who only deal with frying food items. 

Major chef roles and their salaries 

Staff Roles

Salary

Head Chef

Rs 2L – Rs 20L

Sous Chef Rs 2L – Rs 12L
Pastry Chef Rs 1L – Rs 10L

The salaries of other cooks are approximately in the range of 1L to 10L.

Source: PayScale

The above data is an estimate taken from PayScale’s salary statistics and the figures may vary depending on the type of restaurant establishment.

Hiring a chef
Each chef has a specific role in the kitchen.

Types of Chefs in a restaurant 

Chefs are culinary geniuses who create scrumptious dishes for the restaurant menu. Let’s see the different types of chefs present a restaurant kitchen.

1. Executive Chef 

The executive chef, also known as the head chef is the person in command of the kitchen. She/he runs the kitchen single-handedly. They assist the owner in creating the menu for the restaurant and finalizing the prices of each dish on the menu. From choosing the vendors to deciding what kitchen equipment to buy, executive chefs manage all the kitchen expenses. They are always working on creating different dishes to add to the menu. 

2. Sous Chef 

Second in command, sous chefs are the people who fill in for the head chefs in their absence. There can be more than one sous chef in a restaurant, depending on the size. They are in charge of the different branches within the kitchen. They directly work under the orders of the head chef and further give instructions to the cooks.

 3. Pastry Chef

As is evident, pastry chefs prepare different kinds of bread, pastries and a variety of desserts. However, their role is not just limited to making desserts. They also help in designing the dessert section of the menu and deciding what price to put beside each of them. 

Own a bakery? Here’s a complete guide to Bakery Management System.

Hiring a pastry chef
5. Sauce Chef

The sauce in any dish has to be a perfect balance of all ingredients. And the people who make sure that happens are the sauce chefs. They prepare all kinds of sauce for various dishes, soups, gravies, stews, etc. 

6. Roast Chef

Also known as the Meat Chef, all roasted dishes come under their supervision. Any grilling or marination is done according to the instructions given by them. 

Types of Cooks in a restaurant

1. Line Cook 

Line cooks are limited to fine-dine establishments. They help in plating and garnishing the dishes. When required they also help cook a dish or do the initial steps of preparing it. 

2. Prep Cook

All the vegetable chopping, slicing, cleaning and more are taken care of by the prep cooks. They help in preparing different dishes every day. 

3. Relief Cook

As the name suggests, relief cooks fill in wherever needed. They assist the head and sous chefs whenever either one of them is busy or occupied somewhere else.

4. Short Order Cook

Short order cooks prepare quick meals and appetizers. Their job is to make sure kitchen orders are completed quickly but served well. 

Hire a chef for restaurant kitchen

Then there are cooks who have very specific roles. 

5. Fish Cook

Ever wondered who marinates those tunas or prawns? It’s the job of fish cooks. They prepare any and every sea-food dish that’s there on the restaurant menu.  

6. Fry Cook

More common in Quick Service Restaurants where the food is to be prepared in a very short span of time, fry cooks quickly manage the fryers. They are the reason why people get their crispy fries in less than 10 minutes.

7. Grill Cook

Be it grilling vegetables or meat, their job is to grill them at the right temperature.

8. Pantry Cook

Pantry cooks know the quantity of each pantry items and where they are placed in the kitchen. They assist in serving cold food items like salads, cheeses, etc.

9. Vegetable Cook

Again, specific to high-end eateries, vegetable cooks deal with washing, chopping, cutting and cooking vegetables mainly. In small establishments, this work could fall under any of the other cooks. 

As mentioned before, not all restaurants will necessarily have all the cooks and chefs mentioned above. Fine Dining restaurants may have a couple of more whereas, for a small Cafe, two to three chefs would be sufficient. 

Hiring the right chefs for your restaurant – Steps and Processes 

Once you fix the number of chefs and cooks you require for your restaurant, you can move ahead and get straight to the hiring process. Follow a set procedure where you test the person inside out. 

#Round 1 – Get to know them

Once you’ve shortlisted a potential chef for your restaurant, hold an interview with them. The kind of questions you ask in an interview is very crucial. Here are a few questions to begin with – 

  1. What was the last meal they had before the interview? Did they cook it themselves?
  2. How did they get into the cooking business?
  3. What is the best dish they’ve ever made and who/what was the inspiration behind it?
  4. What is their one go-to ingredient?
  5. Did they undergo any training or professional guidance?
  6. If any, who is the one chef whose methods they follow religiously while cooking?
  7. Have they ever had a bad experience while cooking? 
  8. Do they wish to run their own restaurant anytime in the future?
  9. How do they deal with high-pressure situations?
  10. Which is that one dish that they can cook in a short span of time?

You could add more to the list depending on your requirements. Ask them how their previous experiences have been, were there any shortcomings and what they did to overcome those. 

#Round 2 – Let them do the numbers for you

One way to check whether they’ll be able to handle your kitchen expenses or not is to give them a dish and ask them to calculate the food cost. Let them list down the ingredients required for that particular dish and their respective costs. A great way of knowing how they optimize costs. 

#Round 3 – Let the cooking commence

After having answered all the questions mentioned above, you will have a fair idea about the person and her/his objectives. To further test their abilities and skills, you can go ahead and get cooking. Ask them to cook something for you. That will give you a chance to analyze the way they cook and the methods they apply. 

#Round 4 – Get, set, cook

Just reverse Round 3 and give them a dish to cook for you. Or give them limited ingredients to work on. That way you’ll get to know how creative they can be with limited resources. Knowing how systematic one is at work is very important. You wouldn’t want someone who is messy and disorganized. And you definitely wouldn’t want your kitchen to be a chaos. 

After having conducted all these rounds, you could do a little research of your own. Try and find their social media handles. Today, people use their social media accounts as their personal diaries. This will also give you a little insight into their personal lives. Are they dog lovers? Supporters of Manchester United? These tiny details come in handy when you start working with them. To know about their past work experience, call up the references if the applicant’s mentioned any. No better way of getting to know their team leadership qualities and organizational abilities. 

The interview process must be elaborate. It’s only then that you’ll find a chef whose goals align with yours. Let’s look at some of the necessary qualities you must seek in your potential chef candidate. 

Related article: Restaurant Staff-Hiring the Best Team to Run Your Restaurant

Things you must look out for while hiring a chef for your restaurant

Chef Garima Arora, the owner of Gaa in Bangkok, Thailand, is the first Indian woman to win a Michelin Star for her restaurant. She says, 

“It’s like that feeling of eating at someone’s home. We’re trying to elevate that experience and make our guests happy.”

That’s exactly what a chef must focus on, customer experience. While distinct cooking skills are a prerequisite, there are many other qualities that must not be overlooked and should definitely be factored in while hiring one for your restaurant.

  1. Creativity counts for sure. Hire someone who puts their creative minds to use, every now and then. You’d want someone who helps give your restaurant menu a variety of dishes. And every dish is not repetitive. However, it’s your job to not restrict their creativity and give them space to experiment. 
  2. “Show up on time. Whatever work, whatever commitment, you have, always show up on time to show the people who you work with the respect that you can at least do that.”
    The above was quoted by one of the most celebrated chefs across the globe, late Anthony Bourdain when he once appeared on the National Restaurant Association ShowYou’d want someone who is punctual. If your chefs and cooks are on time, the kitchen can start functioning before you let customers in. This will also reduce their wait-time.
  3. Hire a chef who is efficient when it comes to optimizing food costs and handling a large volume of orders. Someone who believes in zero Waste Restaurant as the next step in Sustainable Dining.
  4. The restaurant kitchen is a high-pressure environment. You’d want to hire a chef who is patient and can handle stress when orders are flooding in. A restaurant chef should be able to manage the entire kitchen staff. 
  5. “We’re hoping to succeed; we’re okay with failure. We just don’t want to land in between.” – David Chang
    There are times when a customer might not completely agree with the dish they ordered. Or due to some negligence, their dish was a little different than what they expected it to be. In such cases, the chef you hire must be able to take accountability for it and accept criticism and improve upon them.
  6. A chef needs to be alert and active at all times in the kitchen. Attention to detail is of paramount importance. They must make sure that all dishes are reviewed before they go to the customer’s tables. If any ingredient is missing or there’s something wrong in the presentation, they can get it done before it’s out of the kitchen.
  7. Inventory management is a very important part of your restaurant management system. Your restaurant chef must be aware of all stock purchase. They must be well-prepared with all stock ingredients at the beginning of each week or day. Basically, you must not run out of materials on your busiest days. 
  8. Passion for cooking and a willingness to learn new skills in the trade is very important. A chef must not stick to the same dishes they’ve excelled at. They must keep exploring new dishes and ways they can master those. 

hire chefs and cooks

And you have yourself a chef!

Hiring a chef for your restaurant is important. Hiring a chef whose efforts and creativity and take your restaurant sales to another level is more important. While you have to make sure they fit your restaurant culture well, you must also allow them to individually grow and become better chefs. You wouldn’t have to worry about staff attrition rate if you incentivize your chefs well and make cooking at your restaurant kitchen, a fun experience. 

You’re now ready to hire! 

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Devyani Singh

Devyani Singh

Devyani is a content marketer at LimeTray. Often seen with her earphones on listening to 90s rock and Jazz or reading Harry Potter all over again. She's extremely fascinated by trees and can be seen photographing them every now and then. She is reachable at marketing@limetray.com.