Sous Chef Jobs: How to Hire and Train a Newbie

Successfully filling sous chef jobs requires more than simply finding a good cook. When you have a new hire, it's important to coach and mentor them in order to see them succeed. You also have to hire the right people who have the skills and potential to do well. Here are some tips to help you hire, train, and retain young chefs.

Keep the Current Job Market in Mind

The market for hiring sous chefs is tough, and it's most practical to hire someone who has a lot of potential, train them well, and then retain them. Nurture them to make them vital, high-performing members of your crew. With limited qualified cooks out there to hire, opt for a sous chef who has potential, patience, and a willingness to learn. Partner them with your strongest employees in the kitchen, and take the time to make them feel welcome, important, and crucial to the success of the kitchen.

Remember Kindness Matters

Give your new, young chefs breathing room. If you scream at a new hire, you could end up working a busy Saturday dinner rush by yourself. Encourage them with a nod to compassion rather than being too harsh. The payoff is that you'll have a team that's willing to walk through fire for you. Put yourself in the shoes of your new sous chef, and remember your first days on the job. Keep their sensitivities in mind, and treat them like you would want to be treated.

Hire Soft, Not Just Skilled

In his book Setting the Table, Danny Meyer, a champion restaurateur, imparts the 51/49 rule of hiring, which is based less on skill and more on the soft skills that make for successful additions to a culinary team. Being optimistic, empathetic, self-aware, and having a strong work ethic, for instance, can make for a moldable employee. Hiring someone who is motivated and willing to learn not only makes up for less-than-optimal proficiency in a new hire, but it also makes it easier to show them the ropes.

Give Them the Tools

When looking to fill sous chef jobs, the list of tools necessary to be successful extends beyond a notebook and locker space. You should have an arsenal of tools that are suitable for the tasks your sous chef will have to perform. For instance, while we can all puree single servings of soup, cup after cup, in a small food processor, investing in a commercial blender may be a smarter idea. If you equip your kitchen with the best equipment, your sous chef will not only be more efficient, and produce higher quality foods, but there will also be less room for error.

Assume Nothing

When a mistake happens, take a step back before you blame the new guy. Were you delivering clear directions? Were you modeling the behavior and demonstrating the approach and level of quality you expect? Discuss the situation, demonstrate what you could have done differently, and allow your new hire to take a stab at it. Remember that this isn't an instantaneous process, and that patience is key.

Sometimes it's necessary to take your foot off the gas. Without smudging the lines of the employer and employee or the mentor and mentee relationship, find time to go out of your way and help your new sous chef. Everybody likes to feel special, and any chef will be proud to be a contributing member of a successful restaurant. Take the time to equip your new hire with a sense of purpose and a toolbox full of good training.