Most chefs have experienced waking up in the middle of the night and scribbling down a new idea for a dish. The ideas consume their thoughts until the final dish is completed. Numerous hours are spent working on signature dishes and new creations. Constantly tweaking, taking extra ordinary care over the design, ingredient list, methodology, textures, and flavour profiles. Constantly sharpening and honing the design, ensuring that the final plate that leaves the kitchen would impress even the harshest of critics.
So why isn’t as much time invested in culinary career portfolios, especially when it’s so instrumental in securing a new job? It is the first and in some cases the last opportunity for a prospective client to get a taste of the chef.
You will find endless information and advice regarding CVs so I won’t go in to detail here. My advice is to lay the CV out in an organised and straightforward manner ensuring that it is easy to read. Keep it experience and skills oriented, keeping your personal statements clear of it. This way you should be able to condense a professional informative CV to 2 pages. If you would like further advice regarding CVs, please get in contact with me.
“I can hear my critics mumbling… but I assure you, it’s true”
Two important factors that will help you succeed in the recruitment process, or succeed in a private/yacht chef position are your skill-set and your personality. The CV takes care of the nuts and bolts of your experience and therefore your skill-set. The problem is that it lacks any true visual indication of your creativity; after all – we eat with our eyes first, don’t we? The images of your food creations are arguably as important as your CV (I can hear my critics mumbling… but I assure you, it’s true).
First we’ll address the elephant in the room, the time factor. The problem most chefs face is that when the plate is assembled and looking beautiful, it’s time to serve and therefore not the best time to be fumbling with a smartphone or camera. The bottom line is that you will need to find a way to deal with this. There are different ways to overcome the problem. If you are entitled to eat the same dishes as your principals, plate an extra dish and photograph it after you have served. Or you could take the time to plate the food you eat nicely and photograph this instead. Remember there are many dish elements that are prepared pre-service, like chocolate work, breads and patisserie; these can be photographed prior to service. Whatever solution you choose make sure it suits your service structure and principals’ employment rules.
“Don’t restrict your photography to fine dining”
Don’t make the mistake of restricting your photo portfolio to fine dining; you need a selection that showcases your skill-set. Talk to your agent about the job brief and find out what preferences are applicable to that client. Providing images of the type of food styles the client loves will be a big asset for your application.
Another key addition to your portfolio is your personal biography. You should invest as much time in writing it and keeping it up to date as you do in designing and tweaking your dishes. It is the principals first impression of your personality, dare I risk it again… It’s arguably as important as your CV (distant mumbling heard faintly in the background…).
There are a couple of pitfalls to avoid. Firstly, don’t try to write too much, keep it short and sweet as they say. My suggestion would be to keep the bio between 200 to 300 words. Remember your CV explains your experience and skill-set, so treat it as an opportunity to let your personality shine through. It’s nice to have an intro about how you fell in love and progressed with your career, but remember to include the things you enjoy, keeping them career orientated but giving an insight into other creative areas of your life. Are you a keen traveller? Do you enjoy experimenting with unknown produce from foreign street markets? Are you a keen sailor? Do you enjoy foraging or fishing? Try to avoid repeating what’s on your CV and use the opportunity to deliver an insight into your character.
Remember, just like your dishes, your portfolio needs constant attention to keep it modern, fresh and exciting. Your food photography and your personal biography are just as important as your CV. We are encouraging our chefs to invest serious time in their portfolios, and to succeed in the placement procedure; you will need to do the same.
Article kindly written by Chef Xclusive Director, Philip Pesci