Going For a Culinary Apprenticeship? What Chefs Look For in a New Hire

So your chopping skills are first rate and your braised beef is to die for. Does this make you a prime target for a job in a professional kitchen?

Not really.

According to chefs we spoke to about what they want in a new hire, the qualities they look for have little do with cooking.

They assume you know how to handle a knife, and they can teach you how to cook their way.

What they really want is not unlike what most hiring managers want: A hard worker with a good attitude.

We’ve peeled away five attributes that chefs look for with their candidates.

Hard Worker

A cook is expected to work long hours, mostly on his or her feet for eight hours. Chopping vegetables, organizing a walk-in, and cooking over a hot stove is hard work.

“Hard work is the main ingredient to success,” says Steve Tsirtsis, owner/chef at Citrus City Grille in Orange.


From food prep to keeping your workstation clean, organization is very important in a kitchen. You need to be organized so you don’t fall behind.

“Clean as you go. That’s the most important thing in a kitchen,” Tsirtsis said.

“It’s important that you have your prep list, be able to take care of that list, but also do more than what’s on your prep list,” says Chef Ross Pangilinan of Terrace by Mix Mix in Costa Mesa. “Like, if you see something that needs to be picked up, pick it up. Clean.”

Good Attitude

Kitchens are often small and hot places with several cooks climbing over each other in tight spaces. If a staff member doesn’t work as a team, it can also be dangerous and inefficient.

Pangilinan says his cooks need to “have a positive attitude and work well with other people.”


Restaurants do a lot of their business on weekends and holidays, so it goes without saying that you are expected to work holidays and weekends.

“They should know not to ask for holidays off,” Pangilinan says. “They need to be available.”

You might also be asked to work a lot of overtime, and come in on off days.

Willing to Learn

No chef expects a new hire to be able to cook his menu to perfection right away. You will spend years learning.

“I’m looking for someone who is not an expert,” Tsirtsis says. “I want someone who is willing to learn something new.”

Do YOU Have What Chefs Look For in a New Hire?

So if you’re a hard worker with a flexible schedule, give it a shot. Chefs are always looking for new blood. They want new hires whom they can groom into the next great chef, and not one who already believes he or she is there.