Reliable line cooks can be hard to find between the lazy and entitled line cooks out there. Finding a good cook that fits in with the team and has the work ethic and motivation to work in a restaurant are worth their weight in gold. But actually finding them is another story. Here’s some tips to use when weeding through the applicants as heard through this Reddit thread.
Look in-house for star performers
People in house more than likely already get along with the team and have an idea of how the back of house functions. Reddit user valicat has great advice “Check out the Dishwashers. They're trainable, they'll do anything you tell them, they already have a sense for how things work at your restaurant, and they probably are dying to not be dishwashers anymore.”
Create a short quiz for reading comprehension among other things
Providing a brief 10 minute questionnaire and asking questions like “why use a water bath for dessert” – not only will this give you an idea of their knowledge levels for cooking but it can also give you an idea of their attitudes. Some cooks may think a test is beneath them and that’s what you’re looking to weed out. You want a line cook with a passion for cooking and who wants to be a sponge and learn everything they can get their hands on.
Reddit user Nonyabiness states (NSFW) “One of the places I worked at in the past had exactly this, except it was a 5 or so page written test. They were very competitive and one of the best places in town.
Asked questions about how to make the basic mother sauces, proper food storage, temps for different proteins, etc. Even a few questions like "It's a busy Friday night and "x" happens. What do you do?"
It was a pain in the ass to sit there for an hour and complete the test, but I'll tell you that every cook in that kitchen was spot fucking on. The test was a great way to weed out idiots, and the lazy people would see the test and just walk out the door.”
Do a test run
This will quickly weed out who can follow a recipe, keep their station organized and clean etc. It also helps show how logical they are, how they interact with other staff, and whether they can organize cooking times to ensure all aspects of a meal hit the plate at the same time. From Reddit user JacquesBo’s experience, a test run can definitely be of benefit to you. “We did a test run with a guy, couldn't follow a recipe, or the notes he wrote himself, or damn near anything else. Lasted 2 shifts!”
Qualities to look for:
Look for willingness to learn, passion for cooking, honesty, work ethic, and task comprehension. As Reddit user Che_FJ says “longevity - 2-3 years in a previous job is almost too good to ask for now, I look for someone who left their job for a better one (not necessarily a better paying job) and how they left the first job.” If you take the time to train someone who’s got a desire to learn you might end up with a line cook like Reddit user hudson27 “I went for an interview at 18, with a BS resume and only a few years kitchen experience (mostly dishwashing and prep). The chef asked me to go through the motions of julienning an onion. I had no idea what I was doing, and they immediately turned me down.
Next day, I went to another interview, and they asked me some other relatively basic kitchen question, and I just had to tell them that I had little experience or knowledge on the line. He asked me, "But you want to learn? And you want to cook? That and honesty is pretty rare in young kids today, you got the job."
Been working there 3 years now and am about to go for my culinary arts degree next fall. More importantly though, my chef loves me because he trained me to do everything his way, and I'm always asking him questions and learning more.”
Hopefully this article gave you a start for how to hire a good line cook to join your back of house!