Research the restaurant!
Before your ready to impress with your talent for menu building and cooking, you’ll need to research the restaurant and what food it generally serves, they’re looking to see if you are the right fit to represent the restaurant and build on it’s established brand, so to achieve this do some light research, browse their online site for what they serve already. You’ll then want to consider how you can use this research to your advantage, in terms of how you’ll build your menu and how to present your food in line with the restaurants in place standards. Build on this research with looking up seasonal items they sell and the time of year it is, as you’ll score better if your paying attention to structure that’s already in place.
Another benefit to researching before you go in, is that the restaurant may have a Linkedin page, this will be useful to you as most restaurants active on Linkedin will also feature their menu items, proud moments and other general work culture things, all of which will help you build a clearer picture of what to do for your menu to really inspire and impress your interviewers!
If you have a chef portfolio then now is your chance to use it, consider menu’s you’ve made in the past, if you’re unfamiliar with chef portfolio, think of it as a picture bank of a chefs most proud work, like menu’s that really hit it off with patrons or impressive dish designs. If you don’t have prior menu’s saved you can use, build a mock one based around the cooking interviews requirements! You’ll want to remember what you’ve gathered from researching the restaurant and apply it to the menu, build it around the ingredients you’ll be working with and aim for matching the quality and style of dishes they already prepare.
When planning your menu, think back to restaurant research you did and how your menu looks compared to other menu’s you’ve seen from the restaurant, use it as a reference for your own menu, by checking and comparing the items you’ve gone with to the dishes already loved at the restaurant, if it doesn’t feel like it represents the restaurant then try again! Trial and error will be your best friend in this part of the menu planning process.
Think about timing
When you’re planning for a cooking interview, you’ll need to think about the time your dishes need, if you’re making something particularly lengthy in cooking time, consider pre making what you can, like dough’s and such. Remember to check with whoever is hosting the interview if this is okay beforehand as with these interviews you will most likely be using in-house ingredients. Once you’re sure exactly of how much time your courses will take to cook, think of cooling time, once how long your dishes and ingredients need to settle is taken into account and you’re completely sure of it, you can finalise prep time. By considering how long you will need to put these ingredients together and ready to be served you’ll know exactly how long your meal will take to prepare from start to finish, this is what the interview is about, you’re skills with preparation in the kitchen and time keeping, so it can’t be overstated how important it is that you take the time to research and exact your timing.
When you’re building the ingredient list needed for your cooking interview, try to reference your research, you may have seen their current menu and have a rough idea of what ingredients may already be in-house, so going off that, build upon those same ingredients if you want to! If it doesn’t appeal to you to use those ingredients then definitely let the restaurant know your ingredient requirements about three weeks in advance.
Moving on from finalising your menu and timing your dish cook time to perfection you can move on to verifying what equipment you’ll need and what the restaurant can supply, this is about specific equipment, like heavy mixers if you’ll be making doughs in-house for example. The reason you do this is because although you may have an idea of what equipment the restaurant already uses through your research. You will need absolute clarity on what is available for you to use throughout the cooking interview. It’s not just equipment in the food production sense as there’s ingredients to consider too, a lot of the time restaurants have no problem ordering in specific ingredients and they’re often happy for the initiative! But these things now more then ever take time to procure, the best window of time to aim for is three weeks before the interview date, it gives them time to order in if it’s out of country and if anything changes there’s enough time to correct it!
Always ask your consultant for ideas and advice about what is available. We have been doing Chef recruitment for 15 years and understand this process very well.