5 steps to land an Interview with an Executive Chef

It’s easy to see the appeal of working as an executive chef in a big brand international hotel.

You get luxurious design and glamorous settings, the grand scale of the kitchens, the international lifestyle, and the potential to work anywhere in the world.

If you see yourself eventually running your own kitchen in a luxury international hotel then read on to find out how to get that interview and get your career started!

1. Do your research on the big brands and their hiring procedures.  

You know you want to train under an executive chef you admire, in an international hotel, but you’re not sure which. Would you like to go somewhere exotic, or work for a celebrity chef?

Maybe you’d like to work under Alain Ducasse at the luxurious Plaza Athenée, Paris. Perhaps you’d prefer to work under Daniel Humm in the classy NoMad hotel restaurant in New York.

It’s time to do some research, and pick a few hotels and restaurants to focus your energy on. We’ll give you a little kick-start.

Did you know that Hilton Hotels recently introduced an apprenticeship program, to train up new executive chefs?

Each hotel brand has its own unique programs and hiring procedures. Look at the website of your brand and do some more research to find out the specific hiring procedures they have in place. You might even be able to apply for an apprenticeship directly, and land an interview through their application process! Click here for success tips from Executive Chef Sven Ullrich Hyatt Regency Sydney.

2. Select your dream hotel restaurant and chef, and study EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING.

Now you’ve selected a few options, it’s time to learn everything there is to know about your chosen restaurant, your hotel, and your chef. Become obsessive. When you get to that interview, you want them to know that you’ve already half-trained yourself!

  • Become familiar with what’s on the menu, and the type of cuisine and service that’s on offer. Maybe you need to consider studying or up-skilling in some areas?
  • What did your chef study, and what was their career trajectory? Work backward through their CV, and you’ll find out where you need to start, so you can get to where they are now!
  • Find out as much as you can about the operations of the hotel. After all, the executive chef in a hotel barely does any cooking. Their role is more about menu design and managing the logistics of organizing hundreds of meals per day.
  • Get some experience in a hotel environment before you apply to your dream job, so you can confidently say you know how they work and add it to your CV.

3. Prepare a killer resume with skills matched to your restaurant of choice and the role you want to step into.  

You’ve figured out where you want to work, and you’ve looked at your hotel’s hiring procedures. Now, which roles are you actually qualified to apply for?

According to Hilton Hotels, a typical nine-year journey from apprentice to head chef (another term for executive chef) will look like this:

  • Apprentice Chef – 12-18 months
  • Commis Chef – 1-2 years
  • Demi-Chef de Partie – 1 year
  • Chef de Partie (Supervisor Level) 2 years
  • Sous Chef (Manager Level) 2-3 years
  • Executive Sous Chef – 2-3 years
  • Head Chef

What was your last position, and which part of this journey are you on?

Tailor your cover letter and resume towards the ‘skills description’ of the position you’re qualified for, and follow these four tips on how to write an impressive chef’s CV.

4. Make contact using any possible avenue or network up your sleeve.

We all know that professional networks make the world go round. Now you’ve got your eyes fixed on your ultimate goal, it’s time to shake out your networks and see what essential contacts fall out. Is there anyone in your farthest circles who can give you the email address of someone working in hiring, or put in a recommendation? Scour your networks online such as Linkedin, and ask friends to enquire in their own networks on your behalf.

Another tip: don’t forget the human touch.

Is there a Marriott hotel in your city? Why not pay them a visit, and ask in person if it would be possible to organise a meeting to discuss employment opportunities? If you find your networks aren’t that broad, go to some industry events and chat to people. Even sending an email to someone specifically on the staff can deliver results.

If you’re fresh out of culinary school, don’t despair. Your school is your network! Doubtless, staff members will have their own industry contacts, and perhaps there’s even a work placement or apprenticeship program. Ask a trusted teacher for help.

5. Be respectfully persistent and eat some humble pie.

Hotels typically tend to hire directly from culinary training programs or pick young people at an apprentice level and shape their own chefs as they work up the ranks. In all likelihood, the first position you’ll be trying to get an interview for is going to be low-level.

If you want to eventually take on the role of executive chef, you can expect to start at the bottom and work your way up within the one company.

Be humble, persistent and flexible, when approaching your hotel. Maybe you won’t get the interview you want, or you won’t be able to start working in the kitchen of your favourite chef, or in the location, you’d prefer. As long as you get a foot in the door, remember, you can ask to transfer between hotels and kitchens later in your career. If you demonstrate your passion for a particular restaurant or chef from the very beginning, they’ll be more likely to remember you when a vacancy opens up.

Whatever you do, keep your eyes on the prize. This is a completely achievable dream and with a bit of hard work, you’ll get there.

See here for information on the award-winning culinary courses on offer at William Blue College of Hospitality Management in Sydney, Australia.

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