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Taste tester dish for a restaurant as determined by the hiring restaurant for a chef gig?

K K Nov 16, 2009 04:00 PM

I'm not asking what is your taste tester dish for a restaurant as a diner trying out a new restaurant for the first time, that answer can vary and I'm sure there are numerous threads on it.

But I'm curious for those who have applied for gigs as chefs (or just in the know). Did the restaurant test you during the interview to try and cook something, to see if you pass that test, and what was the dish?

I read a book published in Hong Kong that some local Cantonese Chinese restaurants over there test their budding job candidates for chef gigs with a simple dish like scrambled egg with shrimp, the criteria being the shrimp remaining juicy and moist, the egg at the perfect smooth runny (but not overcooked) consistency, pretty much a way to measure wok and stir fry skills.

For other cuisines, what is that test dish you know of (and why)?

  1. p
    pitterpatter Nov 17, 2009 02:49 AM

    I always had to "audition" for jobs as a pastry chef. At the last gig that I landed, I was asked to make 5 desserts, then had to face a jury of the two owners, exec and sous chefs, and a restaurant consultant. One restaurant owner I know asks prospects to make a pot of rice; another asks for an omelette. Their thinking is that the simplest dishes are actually the most difficult, which I believe is true, and if you can cook perfect rice or the perfect omelette, you can do much more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pitterpatter
      Ruth Lafler Nov 17, 2009 11:01 AM

      I think it's not so much that the simplest dishes are harder to cook well, but that because of their simplicity, all of the flaws are readily apparent and can't be hidden under a sauce.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        almansa Nov 17, 2009 01:08 PM

        I've been given mystery baskets of ingredients and told to come up with 6 or 7 courses for 4 people in a couple of hours, and I've also submitted menus and ordering needs and made multiple courses of my own choosing. When I have potentials cook for me I like to see that they can hit temperatures on more difficult items like veal loin chops, properly cook green beans, get the right consistency for risotto, etc. And it's always set up like a tasting menu with smaller portions and a sensible progression of dishes.

        1. re: almansa
          bushwickgirl Nov 18, 2009 09:51 AM

          I've experienced the mystery basket test as well. I've also been told to see what's in the walk-in and prepare something from what's lurking there, which was by far the easiest test; the chef requested a soup. She had some lamb trimmings, so lamb-barley it was. I got the job. So I guess I can make soup.
          Yes, the omelet test, the vegetable test and of course, the knife skills test.
          Years ago, I prepared and served lunch for four owners of a well-known Manhattan gourmet food store, consisting of sauteed Frenched chicken breast with a pan reduction of herbs, wild mushrooms, cognac and cream, wild rice, don't remember the veg and individual plum tarts with almond paste for dessert. I got that job too.
          I worked at a deli late in my career, when I was easing out of cooking professionally, and had to slice cold cuts, smoked salmon and make a hero. I also got that job, LOL. It was a fun job, though.
          There were misses, too, I once cut myself during an audition and that was that.
          Do I think it's a great idea? Having worked as a chef prior to the use and popularity of the audition, I occasionally hired individuals that came completely skillless. 'Nuff said.

    2. Cherylptw Nov 16, 2009 04:11 PM

      I've worked as a chef in a few restaurants and haven't had the cook test but a lot of restaurants serving ethnic cuisine will test the prospective chef to find out if they can do the job & cook the food

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