As a chef recruiter, I always appreciate when a restaurant offers chef trial shifts to candidates of mine. A chef can showcase their skills while using the event as an opportunity to determine if the restaurant/hotel/caterer is a good fit for them and their career goals. It’s also, equally, an opportunity for a client to “check out the goods” and help them determine if the chef is a good fit for their business and to see how they fit in. Either way the workflow towards chef jobs these days is increasingly likely to encompases trial shifts.
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So what are a chef trial shifts?
From an employer’s perspective, the purpose of a trial shift is to evaluate a potential employee before offering them a position. In many restaurants, caterers and hotels, after a chef job interview, potential chefs work a trial shift to determine if they are a good fit for the job.
Payment on trials
It is important to clarify in advance whether you, the chef, will receive payment for a trial shift and be sure that the trial is set-up to your satisfaction. In case you expect payment, and why shouldn’t you, make sure to clarify that it will be provided.
Preparation Is The Key To Success
Here is our advice for making sure your trial shift goes great and that you’re primed to win a solid job offer. Even though a chef trial shift can seem daunting, it’s better to look upon it as an opportunity to see whether you would be a good fit for your new position. Mindset is important so think of it as being more critical for you, the chef, to know whether your next employer is the right fit for you.
1. Take the time to research
The menus of nearly every restaurant can be found online, so familiarize yourself with them well ahead of your trial shift. Being on top of the details like this can add up to a big difference in your chances of getting the job. Since you will come to your trial armed with the information you need to impress, so you are more likely to impress. So check out the menus before you go there. Make sure you don’t get surprised by their ingredients or techniques.
Make sure you’re set to show competence and confidence. It also doesn’t hurt to ask in advance whether they wish you to prepare anything in particular. Perhaps they will, perhaps they won’t, but knowing never hurts.
2. Are you unable to make a trial shift? Don’t forget to let your agency know!
Please notify your recruitment agency at the earliest opportunity, if you cannot make your trial shift. We’re a specialist chef recruitment agency and “if you’re one of ours” you’ll know how chef recruitment agencies work already. We’ll need you to tell us immediately. Inform the employer directly if you aren’t working through an agency. When it comes to chef trial shifts you have a better chance of arranging another one if you postpone sooner, rather than later. If you wait until the last minute, chances are you won’t get another opportunity. Therefore, try to ensure that you can work your trial shift and if you can’t, get the word out early!
3. Make sure you arrive on time, even better, arrive early
You should already know this, but arrive slightly early for your trial shift instead of “in the nick of time.” This means arriving in plenty of time to enable you to prepare for your section at the exact time you’re supposed to. In this way, you can take advantage of the opportunities to impress as they arise. If you’re using public transport, double check timetables before setting off in plenty of time.
4. Present yourself smartly and professionally
Many businesses will provide uniforms. Verify whether this will be the case on your trial. If in doubt bring a spotlessly clean set of whites and work shoes with you. Always, bring your knives. Anyhow, you need to look clean and smart when you arrive. Don’t wear strong perfume or aftershave. Keep your nails clean and neatly trimmed. Be well groomed and show up well dressed.
5. Embrace humility
If you think certain things could be done better and think you’re better at something, it’s probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself during a trial shift. Each restaurant, and chef, has their own way of doing things, and you’re there to demonstrate your skills and experience. Once you’ve worked there for a while, and have assessed how they do things, that’s the time to start making your helpful suggestions.
6. Take your chef trial shift seriously
It goes without saying, but be prepared to work hard. Since you’re brand new to this kitchen, put your head down and work your socks off. It may have been the case that at your old job you were granted chef privileges, but you are new here, so accept everything that is assigned to you. Even if you think it’s beneath you, or doesn’t showcase your skills to the max, just do it anyway. Always work to get the job offer, you can always turn it down, but you can’t turn it down if it isn’t offered.
7. Have a friendly attitude
While it is paramount to get your head down and get to work, you must also come across as friendly and approachable. Since kitchens are always a team effort, being easy to work with will always go in your favour. Be likeable. If people don’t like you it might undermine your chances, even if you’ve given a technically accomplished performance. See bonus tip below on “old friends.”
8. Be proactive
Occasionally, things can get so busy that you don’t have anyone to answer your questions, at which point you have to take the initiative and decide what is best for you to work on next. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, so keep busy. You may also have quiet times, times where there isn’t much to do. Taking the initiative is the best course of action in this situation too. Kitchens are always busy, so you should know that there is always something to do, find it.
9. Try to relax during your trial shift and do your best
When it comes down to it, you can only do your best. Following these tips will enhance your chances of a successful trial shift and landing the chef’s job. Stick to this script.
10. Work as quickly as you can, but never more quickly than you’re able
Identify how long you should spend on a particular task and strive to complete it within that time-frame. Remember to work as quickly as you can, but the quality of your end product is more important than speed. The chef will appreciate your willingness to take the time to finish a job rather than trying to show off how quickly you can work. Get specific instructions from the chef about how they wish things to be prepared or served. When you finish a job, clean up your section and ask what else you can help with.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just watching how things work – talk to everyone. Take a look at all the stations. Check out the flow, get to know the staff. Can you rely on these people to work next to you and could you depend on them in times of need? Considering how long chefs spend at their jobs, you should make sure you are confident you’ll be joining a good team. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone immediately – but try to surround yourself with good people.
12. Above all, let your work do the talking
Don’t talk too much about your previous job. Don’t say “Oh yeah we did it this way that at my last place.” That seldom goes over well.
Bonus Tip: Beware The “Old Friend” While On Chef Trial Shifts
It’s not unusual, while on a trial, to encounter an old friend, someone you once worked with in another job. Beware! These old friends aren’t always as friendly as you think. At best they can be a distraction on your trial, so don’t linger chatting to them. If you’re such good friends you can always arrange to catch up later. At worst they will try to sabotage your application. Once alerted to your connection, it’s inevitable that the head chef, or hiring manager, will ask them for their impressions of you. What they say isn’t always flattering.
Let me tell you now, because I know – I’ve been a chef recruiter for over a decade – these impressions are as likely to be negative as positive and that cuts your odds of success. Why? Because if you’ve scored yourself a trial your odds of an offer are, in my experience, considerably greater than 50%. However the odds that your old friend will say something genuinely helpful about you are no greater than 50%. On balance you’re better off encountering no old colleagues on your chef trial. In the event that you do, then double down on the work and waste as little time as possible getting reacquainted with your old friend.