If you are just getting started in culinary industry, it can be difficult to land your first serious chef job. Unlike most fields, the culinary hiring process includes a “follow”, which enables both the applicant, and the hiring manager to determine if a match has been made. If you’ve made it this far along in the process, then the prize is within sight. However, if this is your first follow, you may be feeling a little intimidated and unsure of what to expect. Here’s what you need (aside from skill) that will help you nail the follow and get a job offer.
Ideally, a chef will come to a follow with chef pants, a chef jacket, apron, non-slip shoes, and any hair coverings or ties for long hair and beards. That is a complete and professional uniform. However, if funds are low, you can do without some of these items. Properly covering your hair is a must and very inexpensive. Non-slip shoes are also nonnegotiable and is a basic safety precaution. Not to mention, if you do end up working there, a hilarious fall story never dies. You can do without the chef coat and pants, if necessary, but make sure you wear breathable, clean cotton that has no hanging pieces. Now, let’s talk about aprons
An apron is also an essential piece. I’d stick with a neutral color and be sure it a full bib apron, and not a server’s waist apron. It should be made of a thick, breathable cotton, such as twill or denim. A clean and well-fitting apron can make all the difference. Your apron should also have ample pockets for small tools you’ll want to carry on hand always. This is especially true if you will not be wearing a chef coat and pants, which boast extra pockets for carrying these tools.
Knives are expensive tools and you may not yet have an impressive set. That’s okay. Plenty of chefs owning a $25 Target knife have seen much success. What’s most important is that the knife is sharp and properly stored. Custom knife coverings along with knife bags provide the best protection for your knives.
However, knives rolled in bar towels neatly stored in a small duffel will work in a pinch. Also, a modest knife collection includes a chef knife (8” or 10”), a utility knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife. At the very least, be sure you arrive with a chef and utility knife. Showing up with a $300 fillet knife, but no chef knife implies inexperience.
Always carry a pocket-sized notebook. This can be stored in the front or back pocket of your chef pants. It shows the hiring manager that you are eager to learn. You can take notes on basic or frequently used recipes or techniques. Also, in your chef coat or apron pocket, carry a Sharpie, pencil, thermometer and a couple tasting spoons.
Most chefs will spend a lifetime collecting tools, equipment, and books to excel at their craft. This is a lifelong pursuit and will vary depending on the type of culinary field you wish to pursue. These are the basic tools you should have with you on your follow to show the hiring manager you are prepared and professional.