Monday, August 2, 2010

Now Hiring: Somebody Good with a Knife

A chef's resume must, by occasional necessity, appear on paper. But a printed resume does little to demonstrate a chef's skills or the curiosities of each restaurant experience. It's a business that often has little continuity and does not always consider multiple jobs in a few years to be a deal-breaker. Such a business is not often reflected well in a formal resume.

Every time we have updated Chef Matt's resume, informality seems more attractive, if not necessarily appropriate. "Can peel thirty pounds of potatoes in thirty minutes" would be of much greater help to a potential employer than "Manages tasks efficiently and quickly." Similarly, "Will show up for work every day, on time and not hung-over" would be a valuable demonstration of reliability.

A good culinary resume would read like a shopping list of skills. Instead of "Experienced in authentic Mexican cuisine," a head chef or manager would be much more interested in:

  • Can artfully butcher chickens and a variety of large fish.
  • Able to easily identify a dozen peppers and their heat intensities.
  • Cooks tamales that have the seal of approval from multiple Mexicans. Taster references available.
  • Makes awesome guacamole. Will whip some up on demand.

Restaurant resumes should be thus reformatted to fit the culinary universe. Head chefs browsing resumes need to know that "good team player" means "I can handle three stations by myself when another cook walks out during Friday dinner rush," and "skilled at multi-tasking" means "I can assemble fifteen taco platters, neatly chop a pound of cilantro, translate and answer a co-worker's question in my broken kitchen Spanish, and roll twenty pounds of pork in banana leaves, all at the same time," and "hard-working" means "I can go twelve hours without eating."

As Matt begins a new culinary adventure today and our loyalty shifts once more, I know he looks forward to adding new skills to his resume list and using the ones already mastered. Restaurant culture shifts depending on cuisine, but some things do stay constant. He will always have to chop a lot of onions or tomatoes, will always have nights where he faces a line of tickets three feet long, and will always have shifts where he subsists on Coke and water.

It's the constants that make me think chefs should add a section to their resumes titled: "Why I Love This Business Despite All I Know About It." That might be the longest section of all.

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