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Landing a New Kitchen Job Doesn’t Have to Suck

new kitchen job

You have a new kitchen job to find. Get to work with boiled-down insight from a recently unemployed, re-employed restaurant biz veteran.

Landing your next worthwhile kitchen job should be a challenge. It should take homework, tenacity, deep thinking and some scotch.

Make decisions first. What do you absolutely want? What are you willing to give up and what is not negotiable? Being part of an eco-conscious, mission-oriented operation may be high on the list of demands. Having a clear expectation of what you want will narrow the scope, thus alleviating the crush of being overwhelmed with choices. Does money trump everything else? Then a hotel or restaurant group may be the gig. Is a reasonable schedule your flavor? Maybe a corporate foodservice operation is the better call. Start the job search with the end in mind.

Networking isn’t just online. Former co-workers and employers, vendors, bartenders, and your seafood guy are all part of your network. Get in touch with everybody that could possibly give a damn about your well-being. Salespeople, in particular, have a vested interest in keeping ties with you; they want an ‘in’ at wherever you land and they have the ear of all their customers. Reach out to your Sysco guy.

First, you need a resume. If you haven’t already, create an account and upload your resume to Poached. (No resume? You can build one on Poached). Be clear, spell with accuracy, and, above all, be brief. Think the last two minutes of the fireworks show, not the hoopla leading up to it.

Numbers on paper tell amazing stories. Tailor your approach for the target. If you are digging into a corporate kitchen job, be sure there is plenty of illustrating success with food-cost tweaking, labor scheduling, food safety compliance, and use of systems. If you are prowling a farm-to-table spot, pepper your communications with local flavors, sustainability, and environmental accountability. Integrity matters, as well. Be open with resume content and references.

The basics have value when wooing potential employers. They will (probably) show you the inner workings of the operation, but will expect soft skills walking in the door.

“For me, it’s attitude, personality when interviewing, and checking résumés to see if the [applicants] were honest. And if they stage, see how they mesh with my other guys,” says Zach Gamiel, sous chef at Baltimore’s B&O American Brasserie.

Tom Totin, chef/host of the Cookspeak podcast is clear about the most basic requirement. “I ask them about their ability to show up. If they can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how good they are. Real big on the showing up.”

Stay sharp. Stay positive. That bad karma will ooze out all over the keyboard when you get defensive/irritated/annoyed with the hunt and lack of call-backs. Let it go, brothers and sisters. Let it go. The whole state of mind thing really is at play. Having the right personality that fits the culture – and the scope of the person hiring you – is what lands the job. Take your time. This is as much a fit for you as it is for the new place. Experience is great, as is skill. At the same time, be able to contribute to the success of the new spot.

Jim Berman

Jim Berman is a kitchen lifer. A career cook, Jim orchestrates new menus, works on staffing solutions and manages food purchases. He received his formal culinary training in New Mexico, and has done stints in kitchens in Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, and the Delaware Valley. Jim’s writing is regularly featured on Poached Jobs, Foodable, Toast and Kitchen Grit.

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