Knowing what to wear for any interview can be tricky. But it’s even more difficult when you’re a chef, and you may not know what’s appropriate to set the right tone for an interview. Do you wear a suit? What happens if you’re asked to do a cooking demo? Or do you wear casual clothes? Will that come across as too informal and like you’re not taking the role seriously? Do you wear your chef whites? Or is that too presumptuous? So, what should chefs wear to an interview? We’ll give you some tips to dress for success.
It’s important to note that chef interviews tend to be more informal than corporate interviews. The interviewer - whether it be a head chef, a restaurant owner, a manager or a combination - is most interested in your ability to master the existing menu, demonstrate creativity to construct new dishes, and have the skills necessary to perform the job well. Your goal in the interview is to be liked, and to have the interviewer feeling comfortable with you working in their kitchen. Aside from your skills, and your confidence in answering questions (which can come from knowing the industry in and out), dress can be an important factor in setting the right tone and making a great first impression.
Before We Get Started: Consider Grooming Habits
One of the most important factors is grooming. When you become a famous chef, you can rock crazy hair, a beard, or any number of styles, but for an interview it’s important to be fresh faced and neat. You’ll be working with food, so you want the interviewer to note your good hygiene, which will translate to the kitchen.
If your interview includes a cooking demo, make sure you have your hair out of your face (tied back if necessary). For women, if you want to wear makeup make sure it’s light - nothing that will sweat off into the food or fall off (i.e. false eyelashes). For men, you want to make sure you don’t have straggly facial hair that could likewise fall into the soup du jour.
What to Wear
For the Interview:
It’s safe to say that few people are ever not given a job for wearing a suit to an interview.
- Suit - for men or women: a suit may seem too formal for a chef interview, but it’s important to display a level of professionalism when giving a first impression. Both men and women can wear a suit for interview.
- Business Casual: If you feel a suit is a little too formal, then business casual is the way to go.
- Men: Men can dress in a sports coat, button down, and slacks.
- Women: Women can wear a button down shirt or blouse, and slacks or a skirt. Women can wear jewellery, but nothing that would interfere in a cooking demo.
- Both: Make sure everything is neat and clean - and nothing is too revealing or too short.
- Shoes For the Formal Interview: For the interview, when you’re wearing a suit (or business casual), there are still professional styles available in slip-resistant shoe styles. But you can also wear some comfortable dress shoes, or flats for women.
For the Cooking Demo:
So you may be thinking what if I have to cook? If you have a bag packed with your chef clothes, you can simply excuse yourself for a quick change.
- Chef Whites: It’s important to have your chef whites on hand for cooking demos as you don't want to ruin your suit or outfit - plus it's really not safe to wear restrictive clothing in the kitchen or unsafe footwear.
- Chef Clogs or Shoes: Don't forget to bring your slip-resistant chef shoes or clogs in a bag for your cooking demo, as unsafe footwear can result in you not performing your best since you'll be at higher risk for trips and slips.
- Knives: You might want to bring your own knives so you can show off your skills with the knives you use daily. The demo might be tougher if you’re unfamiliar with all of the equipment on hand, so having knives you're familiar with will help you feel more confident.
Most importantly, you want to dress for the type of job you’re going for. You want to dress in something that gives you confidence, but isn’t too casual. If you feel your favourite sports jacket makes you feel more comfortable than a three piece suit, choose that. Likewise, if you feel a business dress is more your style than a blouse, dress to feel your best.
Why can't I dress casually?
It’s not recommended to go too casual because that can come across as cocky, and uncaring. After all, you want to have a competent and professional appearance. Those in the tech industry may be able to wear a hoodie and jeans to interview, but it’s not recommended for the restaurant industry.
What about for corporate or casino chef roles?
If you’re interviewing with a corporate team for a large corporation or casino, then the suit route is the best way to go, especially when you’re being interviewed by people who aren’t in the kitchen and wouldn’t understand why you’d wear something casual to an interview.
What about interviewing for small restaurant chef roles?
If you’re interviewing for a small, independent restaurant or country club, the formal, but more dressed down look might be best because most likely, smaller companies know the kitchen conditions more intimately.
Footwear on the Job
As a chef, you’ll be on your feet all day, moving from station to station. If you’ve worked in the industry, most likely you already have a great pair of chef shoes that work for you, but if you don’t, you may want to invest in a pair of quality slip-resistant chef shoes for your cooking demo and beyond it. They’ll be a good investment for both the interview, and when you land the job.
Now you know how to dress - which role do you apply for?
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