Interview

17 Executive Chef Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from an executive chef, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Every day, executive chefs are responsible for the menus in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, prisons, and other institutions. They also oversee the kitchen staff, manage food supplies, and ensure that food safety and hygiene regulations are followed.

In order to become an executive chef, you need to have years of experience in the kitchen, as well as managerial and leadership skills. You’ll also need to be able to answer questions about your culinary style and philosophy.

To help you prepare for your next executive chef interview, we’ve put together a list of questions and answers that you may be asked.

Are you comfortable managing a large staff of kitchen professionals?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your leadership skills and ability to work with a large team of employees. As an executive chef, you will likely manage a kitchen staff that includes cooks, prep workers, dishwashers and other support staff members. Show the interviewer that you have experience managing a large group of people by describing how you’ve done so in the past.

Example: “In my current position as executive chef at a local restaurant, I lead a staff of 20 professional chefs who are responsible for preparing meals for customers. In my previous role as head chef, I managed a staff of 15 professionals who prepared meals for customers. While both positions required me to delegate tasks to my staff, I also regularly provided feedback on their performance and ensured they were following company policies.”

What are some of the most important qualities that an executive chef should have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills and abilities to be successful in this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few of your own personal qualities that make you an effective leader.

Example: “An executive chef should be someone who is organized, detail-oriented and passionate about food. I think these are three important qualities because they allow me to create delicious meals for my restaurant while also ensuring that all of our ingredients are fresh and we’re using them efficiently. Being passionate about food means that I’m always looking for new ways to improve our menu.”

How would you deal with a situation where there is a lack of teamwork among the kitchen staff?

As an executive chef, you will be responsible for managing a team of kitchen staff. The hiring manager may ask this question to see how you would handle conflict and encourage teamwork among your staff. Use examples from past experiences where you helped resolve conflict or encouraged teamwork in the workplace.

Example: “In my last role as executive chef, I had two sous chefs who were constantly arguing about which one was better at their job. This led to them not working well together and creating tension in the kitchen. I called both of them into my office and explained that they are both valuable members of our team. I asked them what they thought caused the tension between them and we discussed ways to improve communication and work more effectively together.”

What is your experience with managing budgets in the kitchen?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your experience with financial management. As an executive chef, you will likely be responsible for managing the budget of the kitchen and ensuring that it stays within a certain range. Your answer should show the interviewer that you have experience with budgets and can manage one effectively.

Example: “In my last position as executive chef, I was in charge of creating the monthly budget for the entire restaurant. I worked closely with the accounting department to ensure that we had enough money to cover all expenses while also providing us with some extra funds for unexpected costs. I also regularly monitored our spending throughout the month to make sure we were staying on track.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.

An employer may ask this question to learn more about your customer service skills. They want to know how you would handle a situation where a customer was upset or dissatisfied with their meal. In your answer, try to show that you can remain calm and polite while also resolving the issue.

Example: “When I worked at my previous restaurant, one of our customers came back for a second time because they were unhappy with their first experience. The customer said that their steak was too tough and that it wasn’t cooked properly. I apologized for their experience and offered them a free dessert on us. I then went into the kitchen to speak with the chef who prepared the steak. He told me he had followed all proper procedures when cooking the steak and that it should have been tender. We decided to remake the dish and serve it to the customer.”

If hired, what would be your first priority as an executive chef?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you have a plan for how you would approach your new role. Your answer should include specific details about what you would do and when you would complete it.

Example: “My first priority as executive chef would be to meet with all of my staff members to introduce myself, learn their names and find out more about them. I want everyone to feel comfortable coming to me with any questions or concerns they may have. Next, I would review the menu and make sure there are no items that need to be changed or removed. Finally, I would start planning for the next month’s specials.”

What would you do if you noticed that one of your kitchen staff was not following proper food safety procedures?

Food safety is a major concern for many employers, and they want to know that you take this issue seriously. In your answer, explain how you would handle the situation in a way that ensures food safety while also encouraging your staff members to learn from their mistakes.

Example: “If I noticed one of my kitchen staff was not following proper food safety procedures, I would first speak with them privately about it. If they were aware of the mistake but simply forgot, I would give them a chance to correct it before taking any further action. However, if they continued to make the same mistake after being reminded, I would have a conversation with them about the consequences of their actions. Depending on the severity of the infraction, I might choose to suspend or terminate their employment.”

How well do you handle stress?

Working as an executive chef can be stressful. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the skills and personality to handle a high-pressure job. In your answer, explain how you manage stress in your life. Share two or three strategies that help you stay calm when things get hectic.

Example: “I am very organized, so I find it helpful to create lists of tasks for each day. This helps me prioritize my work and keep track of what needs to get done. Another thing I do is take regular breaks throughout the day. When I feel overwhelmed, I step away from my desk for five minutes to collect my thoughts. These are just a few ways I manage stress at work.”

Do you have any questions for me about the role of an executive chef at our company?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have done your research on the company and its culture. They want to know that you are genuinely interested in their organization and how it can benefit you as an employee. When preparing for your interview, read through the job description and familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of the role. Then, think about what questions you would have if you were applying for the position.

Example: “I am very excited about this opportunity because I feel like this is a great fit for my skills and interests. As someone who has worked in restaurants for many years, I am curious about the mentorship program here. I noticed that there are several chefs at this location who have been working here for over 20 years. I’m wondering if they could tell me more about how they’ve stayed so motivated and productive throughout their careers.”

When was the last time you updated your knowledge of cooking techniques and trends?

Employers ask this question to make sure you are committed to your career and want to continue learning. They also want to know that you will be able to keep up with the latest trends in the industry. When answering, try to think of a specific time when you took initiative to learn something new.

Example: “I am always looking for ways to improve my cooking skills. I recently attended a seminar on how to use more seasonal ingredients in my dishes. This helped me create a menu that was both delicious and environmentally friendly. The restaurant owner loved it so much that we implemented it as our regular menu.”

We want to improve our menu offerings. If hired, would you be willing to help create new menu items?

The interviewer may ask this question to see if you are willing to help improve the restaurant’s offerings. Use your answer to show that you’re open to new ideas and can create innovative menu items.

Example: “I would be happy to help with creating new menu items. I have a lot of experience coming up with creative dishes, so I think it could be fun to work on some new options for our customers. I also know how important it is to keep the food fresh and exciting, so I’d love to collaborate with other chefs to come up with new recipes.”

Describe your experience with inventory management.

Inventory management is an important skill for any chef to have. It’s a way of keeping track of the food and supplies you have on hand, as well as what you need to order more of. An interviewer may ask this question to see how you handle managing multiple tasks at once. In your answer, explain that you use software or other tools to help you keep track of inventory.

Example: “I’ve used several different types of software in my career, including some free ones online. I find these are helpful because they allow me to enter all of the ingredients we have on hand, along with their expiration dates. Then, when I’m ready to place an order, I can easily compare our current stock levels to the items we need to reorder.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates who are applying for this role?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. When answering, it can be helpful to highlight a skill or experience that makes you unique from other candidates. You may also want to mention any certifications you have or awards you’ve won in the past.

Example: “I am passionate about food and cooking, which is why I became an executive chef. In my last role, I was awarded ‘Chef of the Year’ for my innovative dishes and ability to create seasonal menus. This award has helped me gain recognition as a talented chef who can lead a kitchen.”

Which restaurant or kitchen where you worked did you feel had the best culture?

A strong work culture is important for any workplace, and the interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your experience with company cultures. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a specific example of a positive culture you experienced in a kitchen or restaurant.

Example: “In my last position as executive chef at a local Italian restaurant, I felt that we had a very positive culture. We all got along well, and there was always someone willing to help out if another person needed assistance. The owner also made sure to recognize our hard work and celebrate our successes together as a team. This helped us feel appreciated and motivated to continue working hard.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of kitchen management?

This question can help the interviewer determine your priorities as an executive chef. Use your answer to highlight your management skills and how you plan, organize and delegate tasks.

Example: “I think communication is the most important aspect of kitchen management because it allows me to keep my team informed about what’s happening in the kitchen. I make sure that all my staff members know their responsibilities and when they’re expected to complete them. This helps everyone work together more efficiently and ensures that we have everything prepared for our guests on time.”

How often do you update your personal cooking techniques?

The interviewer may ask this question to see if you are open to learning new techniques and incorporating them into your kitchen. Show the interviewer that you are willing to learn from others by explaining how often you attend cooking classes or read food magazines.

Example: “I try to take a class every year, but I also subscribe to several food magazines so I can keep up with current trends in the industry. I find that reading about different ingredients and recipes helps me develop my own personal style of cooking. In fact, I have been using one chef’s recipe for roasted asparagus all summer long because it is so delicious.”

There is a lack of teamwork among your kitchen staff. How would you address the issue?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your leadership skills and how you would handle a challenging situation. In your answer, demonstrate that you can use your communication skills to resolve conflict and encourage teamwork among your staff.

Example: “I have worked in kitchens where there was tension between the chefs and line cooks. I find it’s important to meet with each team member individually to learn what is causing the tension and then address the issue as a group. For example, if one cook feels they are not getting enough hours, I might offer them more shifts or discuss their concerns with management so we can come up with a solution together. By addressing the problem head-on, I am able to diffuse any tension and create an open environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up.”

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