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Sous Chef

Best interview questions for your hiring process

Sous Chef Interview questions

Sous Chefs are excellently skilled when it comes to preparing, cooking and presenting food. They’ll be able to help design and prepare a menu, as well as to guide a team to success during every shift in the kitchen. They’ll have the necessary confidence to stand in for the Head Chef if needed.

These are the Sous Chef skills your candidate should have:

• A certificate, qualification, or degree in the food industry.
• Experience crafting and cooking a variety of dishes.
• Excellent knowledge of food and kitchen safety.
• Basic level of management experience.
• High level of experience with kitchen equipment and tools.

Interviewing a Sous Chef

A Sous Chef can be the difference between a good restaurant and a great one. They will have input in all areas of the kitchen, whether it is taking note of supply levels, helping guide the team through the dinnertime rush, or pitching in and preparing dishes.

Their direct impact on the customer’s experience and ability to keep the kitchen calm and productive means that asking the right questions during the interview process is essential. So, we’ve assembled this guide to ensure you don’t miss any of these critical questions out.

As these questions are designed for use at the start of the process, they are kept quite general. As the candidate progresses through the stages, more business-specific questions may be needed.

How to open the job interview

Even the most skilled Sous Chef is bound to feel nervous during their initial interview. However, this can impact their interview performance. To combat this, you can ask a couple of lightweight opening questions at the start of the interview.

These opening questions are designed to get the conversation flowing, so you can assess the candidate’s skills and cultural fit in your company better.

Best interview questions for your hiring process

See our Sous Chef job description here

For the interview

A positive opener to start

How did you get started in your career as a Sous Chef?

What is your proudest moment of your career?

Behavioral Questions

Can you give an example of a certain recipe or dish from another Chef that inspires your work? And why?

This question will give you an idea of the candidate’s interests, overall industry knowledge, and whether they are constantly learning and growing within their role. These are all qualities you’ll want your potential hire to bring to the team.

Describe a dish that you’ve struggled to create in the past. What did you do to overcome the problem?

Every Sous Chef will have their area of weakness, how they deal with this is what is important. Your candidate should be able to mention practising their technique, getting pointers from colleagues or other Chefs, and using resources such as workshops or videos to help overcome the challenge.

Describe a time when you received negative feedback from a diner. How did you learn from this?

Customers can often be harsh critics. Knowing your candidate stayed motivated and really took the feedback on board rather than dismissing the feedback is a good sign.

Describe a time when you have made a change to a menu. Why did you do this, and how was it received? 

As the second in command, it is essential that a candidate has the confidence needed to speak up and pitch ideas to the rest of the team. This question is a great idea to see if this is something the candidate has done in previous roles.

Soft Skills

How would you help a Chef or Line Cook who was falling behind with their food preparation?

Efficiency is key during busy times at restaurants. If one person falls behind, then it can cost the whole team. Your candidate should be able to use their communication and management skills to decipher the problem and advise how to overcome this moving forward.

If you noticed a Line Cook making a mistake during preparation for a recipe, how would you approach this problem?

Speed and professionalism are key here. The candidate should mention stepping in as soon as possible to ensure minimal disruption to workflow and customer experience. They should then point out the mistake to the colleague and advise on the correct way to perform the task. It is also a good idea to check up on the same Line Cook the next time the task is being performed.

When training your team to create a new menu item or dish, how do you ensure that they are following your tutorial correctly?

Here you’re looking for leadership and communication techniques. Your candidate should be able to mention some points such as performing a demonstration for the team, writing the recipe down, or doing a small question-and-answer session.

What skills do you have that make you the best candidate for this Sous Chef role?

This gives your candidate the chance to show off some of their skills. They should be able to list a few soft or hard skills they have that make them stand out. These will usually be their confidence areas too, giving you a better understanding of their working style.

If the restaurant received a bad review, what would you do in response to this?

This is a test of the candidate’s initiative. They should be able to mention a few next steps they would take in response to this, whether it is practising preparation techniques of a certain recipe with the team or working with restaurant managers to adjust waiting times.

Hard Skills

What formal training have you received in terms of food safety?

Food safety is a priority for any kitchen. Therefore, knowing your candidate has had training in this area is essential.

What cuisine did you work with in your previous role? What dishes did you prepare here?

This will, again, give you an idea of the candidate’s compatibility with your business. It may also give you an idea of the new skills they may bring to the table.

Which kitchen tools and equipment are you most familiar with using, or have you received training for?

A Sous Chef will be an example for the rest of the staff when it comes to proper tool and equipment usage. Knowing they have received training here, or are experts with certain tools, will help you to decide if this is something they are capable of.

How would you rate your knowledge of dietary requirements and allergies?

A Sous Chef should have a sharp knowledge of these points, perhaps even having received formal training in the area.

Have you received any management training?

As the Sous Chef will play a huge part in guiding the team, it is important that they know how to do this properly.

Operational / Situational Questions

Imagine you make a huge mistake when preparing a dish. What would your next steps be?

Mistakes happen. However, how they are dealt with can have a huge impact on the restaurant’s image and workflow. The candidate should ensure the customer who ordered the dish is quickly contacted and made aware of a delay, and properly compensated. They should then begin a new dish. The candidate should then also mention learning from the mistake.

Imagine you are successful and start at our business as a new Sous Chef. What would your initial steps be when joining the team?

The candidate should mention familiarising themselves with the menu, practising crafting some of the dishes, and getting comfortable with the layout of the kitchen and workspace. They should also make introductions with the team.

Imagine you can make one change to our menu. What would it be and why?

This question tests both the candidate’s research skills and creativity. They should be able to mention at least one item on the current menu, as well as make a suggestion that is in line with the business theme.

Imagine you have a Chef who is severely underperforming. How do you deal with this?

As a senior role within the business, your candidate may have to deal with this situation from time to time. Knowing they can schedule a performance review, outline the problem and provide some actions to change this is essential.

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