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This Thursday night on Food Network (10pm/9c), Anne Burrell will be putting her mentor hat back on as she helps top restaurants find an executive chef — the critical employee who can make or break a restaurant — on Chef Wanted. Each week, Anne Burrell will put four candidates through the toughest job interview of their lives, testing everything from their culinary mettle to business acumen. It all ends with the biggest test of all: running the restaurant.
We recently chatted with Anne about being a mentor: identifying red flags on resumes, the hard questions she has to ask and even her own toughest job interview.
What is the best question to ask a potential candidate?
AB: There are a few questions I always ask. The first really important question is why do you want this job? This is to see if they’re looking for any job or if they’re actually interested in this particular job. Second, why did you get into cooking? I want to find out if this is their passion or just a job to them.
What are your long-term goals? I want to see if they’re committed to the job or if this is a stepping-stone to something else. If I’m going to go through the interview process with them, I want someone who will stay for the long haul.
Lastly, I ask, “What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with?” Because I’m curious.
AB: There’s a huge difference because on Worst Cooks in America, the people know they’re terrible and they’re trying to learn and improve. On Chef Wanted, I’m dealing with experienced chefs so it’s a tough comparison. But one thing that is always similar is the tough-love component. I always want to push people to dig deep and strive to do their best.
What was your own toughest/most memorable job interview?
AB: When I was interviewing for Lidia Bastianich. She told me to go to the basement kitchen and grate seven fresh roots of horseradish; after five minutes, my eyes and nose were watering and I could barely see. Even worse, after 10 minutes everyone else’s eyes in the kitchen were watering, too, and they were yelling at me asking what I was doing there. I was just following Lidia’s directions!
What’s the best piece of advice for a job-seeking chef?
AB: Decide what you want to do and what job you want to have and go for it. Don’t just try for anything. Be respectful, be humble, don’t have an attitude and make really good food.
What’s the biggest red flag on a chef’s resume?
AB: Someone who has a big gap in time of unemployment and someone who has jumped around a lot and only worked at places for a short time.
Since we’re full-swing into the summer months, what’s your after-work summer drink suggestion?
AB: Vodka gimlets on the rocks.