Resume Writing Dos and Don’ts for Chefs and Cooks
A discussion started on Cookwork.com reminded me of what comes up frequently in discussion when I mentor kids thinking about going into the culinary industry, the old standby, writing a culinary resume.
Your resume is the first step to getting into the door to be interviewed, you need to make it count.
- Be Specific: If you worked the grill station or the sauté station, don’t just put. “Jane Doe Restaurant, December 12, 2005-October 15, 2006 Line cook, I worked the grill station.” What else did you do there? Any ordering? Did you check in orders? Did you help with inventory? Did you work any other parts of the line, even for brief stints? How many average covers did you do? What type of restaurant was it? If you worked grill: were you cooking fine dining, i.e. grilling ribeyes and salmon or were you flipping burgers at a family style restaurant? Did you expedite? Did you give direction to prep cooks or other staff? The more information you put the more chance that the person or persons reading your resume will see you have more things you have actually done then just “working the grill”
- Invest in some quality stationary, it will make your resume stand out from the crowd.
- Run spell-check and then run it again and THEN run it by an English Major, spell-check does not catch everything! Your future employers won’t be impresed with a resumah with mispeled wurds.
- If you have computer knowledge, list it and the programs you know as well. While you might be interviewing for a line cook or sous position, which while you may not be using a computer at first, think long term (because your potential employers will be) if you get promoted you may be asked to program or change information in the POS system or use Excel to manage inventories or scheduling.
- If you have certifications or other relevant experience that is not directly job, but is industry related, list it. As a potential employer I want to know if you have your Serv Safe certification and T.I.P.S. training for example.
- List any memberships you have if they are industry related. Are you a member of the ACF? Did you belong to a Food and Wine Club at your high school? As a potential employer I like to know that you are interested and involved in the industry.
- Use bullet points
- Make sure your typeface is clean and easily readable. While calligraphy fonts are beautiful they can also be very hard to read.
- Customize your resume for each employer. A resume for a corporate job should not be the same as a small fine dining restaurant. Research your targets and the job you are applying for and customize to suit. This can also include rearranging the order in which you list your categories. For a corporate type job you may want to list your schooling and certifications first and then your job experience, where as for a small restaurant that is looking for a saucier, your last job information (as a saucier) should come first.
- It’s suggested in most professions not to list all your job experience, in the case of the hospitality industry I don’t agree with that. More then 20 years back is a bit much but you may want to list places you worked and job titles. The restaurant industry has much more to it then someone that works in computing. As a potential employer I would want to know that 15 years ago you worked at an Asian restaurant rolling sushi.
- Keep your resume to 2 pages or less if possible. A third page can be used as a promo page if you use it for “extra” information, i.e. any culinary awards you have won, if you were written up in news or other media. Be careful of being too “self” promotional though. It can be a relevant push for a call back, depending on where you are applying. As an employer at a high end seafood restaurant, the fact that you won the Boston ACF Seafood Grill Challenge for 3 years running gives you some positive points in my book.
- When saying phrases like Increased table turnovers and Improved food cost. Give specifics, i.e. Improved the food cost by 12% by re-sourcing our vendors over a 6 month time period. (this goes for writing your cover letter as well) Give specifics, numbers are important, otherwise its just empty hype.
- List relevant references, If you are just starting out and don’t have job references yet, ask teachers and other adults that are business owners if you can use them for references. Listing your best buddies and your parents is not a great idea. If you are just graduating from the culinary, many teachers are happy to write letters of reference as well if you are an exceptional student.
- Do be persistent and follow up. You mailed or emailed your resume to a restaurant or other facility. If you feel you are qualified for the position you are applying for, give it about a week and follow up preferably with a polite phone call.
- If you only have one copy left of your resume and the original is gone. Spend the time to retype it, Don’t photocopy it.
- Don’t put your “cute” email address as a contact source. While they may be amusing to you and your friends, they are not to a potential employer. Get a gmail account and sign up with a more straightforward address. For those who forget passwords, you can set gmail to forward your emails to your regular account. Some real life examples of resume email addresses I have gotten (and impression of person dropped several points just from the address) hotcrossbuns@ sexychefette@ sexkitchenkitten@ smokintoquen@ angusbiteme@ chocolatemeltsme@ OhU8me2@ and Thanks to ChefCody on cookwork.com for these: staightupg09@ youcanthandletheangus@ livingthe420dream@ whateva504@ Pinkfender2@ chancethepants@ exodabeast@
- Don’t list generalities, (a good problem solver, great under pressure, hands on) like saying Improved food cost, these have no relevant basis unless you can back them up with relevant examples.
- Don’t apply for jobs that you are not qualified for and then be upset when you don’t get callbacks, and then call the employer up and harass them about it. Most employers will keep good resumes on file for future needs. While I may not need a line cook right now, I need an executive chef, I will probably keep your resume. If you call me and inquire why I didn’t call you back and try to convince me that working at Denny’s for 2 years qualifies you to be my executive chef, I’ll most probably shred your resume.
- Don’t use words you don’t know what they mean. I worked the Garde Manger station (but have no idea what Garde Manger actually means.)
- Don’t use words that you don’t know how to spell correctly. I still to this day wonder what a bay marie is. (I can forgive the baine or bain spelling) This one is a bit like Duck/Duct Tape.
- Don’t Fib! Those “little white lies” will definitely come back to haunt you in this business. Saying you made daily a 30 yolk hollandaise by hand, and then not being able incorporate an egg yolk when asked doesn’t look good. (this goes for your interview as well) Telling an interviewer that you oversaw the whole kitchen staff of 12 when it was actually just the dishwasher is a stretch, and most people DO check.
- If you write a career objective, consider who is going to be reading your resume. “I would like to gain as much experience in the restaurant industry as I can by working all the stations and positions available to me and would like to eventually own my own restaurant.” Is a decent if unimaginative career goal) ”To advance myself through the ranks of the ” ” restaurant and in 2 years replace the executive chef who is there now. Is not a great (but real life example) of a good career objective, especially in this particular case of the person reading the resume was the executive chef.