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Bringing Samples To An Interview--Genius or Idiocy???

I'm interviewing for a prep type position at a Mom and Pop place this Thursday. Duties will include baking, as well as making soups, salads, lunch entrees, and whatever else I may be needed for.

Would I be completely off base to bring a small sample of baked goods with me to leave with them to taste at their leisure? I've never seen or heard of anyone doing this before, and when the idea crossed my mind earlier today I wasn't sure if it was clever or asinine--so what do you all think? I appreciate your input, as I'm really tossing a coin on this one!

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  1. I don't know why that would be a bad idea--let your talents speak for you.

    1. I've never worked in the food industry so with that in mind, uh, yes, I think it's an excellent idea. Come to think of it, if I owned a restaurant and were hiring, I think I'd want to sample any prospective chef or baker's food before hiring them.

      1. Having been in the business, both being hired and involved in hiring, I have not encountered this. I would expect to be asked to make something as part of the interview, and have done such when I did the interviewed (for those who want to know, I ask for a plain egg omelet or over light egg). Unless I was hiring or interviewing to be hired as an Executive-Chef, who would decide and change menus, I would wait until I was hired to show what else I could bring "to the table". Mom and Pops tend to be rather set in their recipe ways (however your mileage may vary on this as you are the one responding to their ad, which may include dish/recipe development).

        And well you are applying for prep, which means prep our recipes. Trust me, when I moved back to my home state, after leaving a managing position in a gourmet food shop, who's catering business I developed, into a prep position in a Casino, I did three months works of making fresh fruit prep for our various restaurants garnishes. Yes 3 months of cases per day of 3 kinds of fruits, of three different cuts

        1. Thank you all for replying, I appreciate it so much! So far the responses from you and others on a different site seem to be positive--as in "Go ahead and go for it!!"

          Please keep responding, especially my brother and sister pro chefs...

          Quine--I feel your pain, I have been in similar situations myself....way too often!

          2 Replies
          1. re: KSlink

            Maybe you can leave it with them at the end of the interview, and make your comments based on what you learn about the position ie/ "I know I would be hired to prep your much-loved recipes, but I thought I would leave you with a sample of my work, to enjoy at your leisure".

            1. re: julesrules

              I like this idea...leaving it at the end. And julesrules wording is perfect. I've never worked in a professional kitchen, and as others have said, a Mom and Pop is likely to already have established dishes. But that's also not to say that they wouldn't appreciate some new ideas, and leaving them with some samples could help seal a favorable decision!

          2. As a professional (currently a lead line cook/kitchen manager) I would say that bringing samples would be highly unorthodox. I also agree with Quine that the potential employers want to know how well you can do THEIR recipies. It gets old fast when the brand new employee is always offering their 2 cents on how to fix everything, not that you will do that but showing off your work may give them that impression. Also, if you happen to love your raisin bran muffin recipe (for example) and you personally offer them to the interviewer who HATES raisins with a passion, it may create an awkward situation and could potentially cost you the job. I would say interview the old fashioned way: be polite, tell them what they want to hear, hope for the best. The only way I would think samples are a good idea would be as a "thank you" gift a day or two after the interview.

            1 Reply
            1. re: d8200

              I agree with d8200. Fugghedabout it! For one, they won't know that you really made them right? They did not see you make them. It's overkill on your part. Also they will want to really see how you do in the professional kitchen - that's where the rubber spatula meats the road. Your prep job will require more than just baking, so why just bring home made baked goodies to your interview? Your resume, background and personality are enough.

            2. Go for it. I used to own a small cafe, and would've taken your sample in the spirit it is intended AND be way way WAY more likely to put you at the top of the list of multiple candidates during any initial winnowing period.

              1. While I love the idea of baking for them, I wouldn't bring the samples to the interview but send them as a thank you. If I were the Mom/Pop, I would have no way of knowing that you had actually baked the items you brought. Yes, such deception could happen--not that YOU would do such a heinous thing.

                As someone else noted, what if you brought something that was offensive or radically different from their standard recipes?

                Keep the thank you gift simple but heartfelt, not over the top and hopefully you'll get the gig.

                Good luck!

                1. coming from a marketing background, I think I'd listen to jules and hungrygal and meld their approaches. make it clear it's of course not the owner's recipe but an example of what you can do. and of course if not perfect just chuck the whole idea. be professional, yet not too perfect so it's clear it's handmade. but it would be a nice thx gesture, and tailor what you bake to being along the format of the place (think of it as a cover letter on a resume)

                  as a leave-behind is a good idea. it keeps them talking about you after you've left rather than distract from the interview itself.

                  1. In these days of a tight job market anything you can do to make you stand out from the crowd is going to be a good thing. If i were interviewing for a bakery that was famous for it's chocolate chip cookies, I don't think I'd bake cookies, but a cake or diner rolls, or lavosh might be nice. Something that says "I know what baking is about" without saying "i can already make better cookies than you can."

                    Good luck, do let us know how it goes.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      it may be because of my own background. as an architect i would never show up at an interview without a portfolio, potential employers are not just going to want to see my resume, they are going to want to see pictures of my work. somehow i'm not sure photos of your food are exactly the equivalent, although if you have some i'm not sure how it would hurt either. as for those who are saying that the potential employers won't know if you really baked it, well that could be true of your resume, any pictures, references, etc. Sure they can verify some of the information, but if they don't trust you on a gut level then the party is over before it begins. besides if they really care, they are likely to ask you how you went about making whatever it was, techniques, ingredients, temperatures, etc. if you didn't make it you likely wouldn't be able to answer.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I too wouldn't dream of going to an interview without a portfolio.

                        And I would say too that if you are met with what I call "fear and suspicion," that will tell you a great deal too--and in that case I would hope you wouldn't take any job offered.

                        1. re: foiegras

                          The only reason I could think of seeing an interviewee's work in the food industry, would be for things like decorative work, Ice Carving, cake decorating, those areas. For a Prep cook to interview and bring in goodies, would strike me as off.

                          The Op states the job description is "Duties will include baking, as well as making soups, salads, lunch entrees, and whatever else I may be needed for." I could even see the baked item presentation as a backfire statement of "this is what I want to do, the soup, salads et al, are besides what I want to do, which is baking."

                          1. re: Quine

                            From reading his (I'm guessing) post, I detect zero attitude in the OP. He's interviewing with Mom and Pop, who I would also guess are likely to be considerably less cynical than some posters here. Whatever he takes with him will be accompanied by him and his attitude, which will determine how the sample will be read. That, and the overall attitude of Mom and Pop.

                            In my mind, baking and sharing something that shows his love of the kitchen is far better than not doing so out of fear.

                            1. re: foiegras

                              You are a breath of fresh air, again.

                              1. re: foiegras

                                I disagree. I have worked in the industry, including doing the hiring. I would not expect an applicant (especially for an all around prep cook position) to bring a "sample" of their work. Since the job description does involve other food items and skills to product them, why not, based on your viewpoint, bring a sample of everything then?

                                If I needed to see skills, I would ask for a dish to be prepped, a simple omelet, egg over light and a poached egg, usually quickly shows skill level and experience.

                                Of course, your experience in the industry may vary.

                          2. re: KaimukiMan

                            hey KMan - that's the industry I used to work in. heck we'd never send a team into an interview w/o collateral material for the potential client to review as 'leave-behinds' sometimes prints, sometimes interactive CD-ROMs. of course in that context by the time we got an interview they already knew 'most everything about us from the proposal (but then that's analogous to the resume for an individual)

                        2. You've all given me some more things to think about, thank you so much for your time!

                          Now I REALLY have some other aspects to consider that I wasn't aware of before...

                          Please, keep them coming!

                          1. I'm not a chef, but I think it's a good idea.

                            Once I had made biscotti for what was supposed to be a potluck, and when everyone else got lazy, we went out instead. I took the biscotti with me, and when I realized it might be considered rude to bring food to a restaurant, in the interest of PR, I gave one to our waitress. She took it back to the chef, and he came out and offered me a job (they needed a pastry chef).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: foiegras

                              That must have been some biscotti :)

                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                Chocolate and pecan as I recall ;) Apparently it worked for three of us--all baked goods, interestingly.

                                Sorry to hear the news, KSlink ... the guy does sound like a flake. I have had an interview canceled before for the same reason, but never have I shown up like you did, and not had one. Best of luck finding a great job and employer :)

                            2. If they want to hire you to bake for them, it seems only reasonable to give them a taste of what you can do! Why would it be idiocy? It might give you a leg-up over somebody who hasn't bothered, or who isn't as good a baker as you are.

                              1. Would you consider calling the potential employer to confirm your interview appt. and at that time ask if they would like to see samples of your work/skills/varied experience. By asking you may get the exact answer you seek.

                                1. I will be very curious about this. It can be risky for a Mom and Pop prep type position. You can tell them about your skill set, but I won't literally bring the baked goods there. When you are first hired, you are not expect to "create" food or "change" their menu. That is not what they need.

                                  During interview or hiring, a lot of times it is about not raising the "red flag" and not doing something out of the norm and make them read too much into it. Most employers frankly are concern of surprises and unpredictable employees.

                                  If you really want to bring your baked goods, then at the very least you should call ahead and ask them if it is alright. If they say it is not necessary, then do NOT do it.

                                  1. I am in the industry, and I would not do this. It might work, some places might like it and think its different and good, but in my experience, I would not suggest it. They are hiring for a prep position, they want you to prep their menu. If later on, down the road, you are talking to them and express interest in baking things that aren't on their menu, and they seem interested, you can bake them samples to show them some of your ideas. Taking in food that isn't on their menu, or trying to make food that is on their menu better in an interview might make them seem like you are over eager, or over confident or want to change their menu right off the bat.

                                    I understand why you want to, and its a good intention, and maybe it is different in a mom and pop place, but in any restaurant I've worked in, the chef is busy, and the interview is an inconvenience to begin with. They want to talk to you, get to know you and know about you, they might not have the time to sit and chat and eat your baked goods.

                                    Again, its just my experience, and it might be much more casual there, and its a nice idea, I just don't know how practical it is, if you've eaten there before and know a bit about the owners maybe you'd have a better feeling.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TeRReT

                                      <make them seem like you are over eager, or over confident or want to change their menu right off the bat.>

                                      Exactly. While it may work, there is too much risk to do something like this.

                                      In an interview like this, you want to be excited about the job, but not too overly excited. They want someone who can follow orders. Someone who is steady and grounded.

                                    2. Very interesting perspectives from those in the biz. As a complete outsider--I'm a psychotherapist, so leaving behind a tape of a "really good session I just did" ain't gonna happen--but vote for the next-day-as-a-thank-you-for-your-time gesture, along with a note saying thanks. I've gotten into the top 3 finalists just based on a thank you note--guess they're rare from applicants. Let us know what happens.

                                      1. I would agree with others that bringing in a baked good for a prep job is risky. I wouldn't do it. Your resume should speak for itself, along with an interview. They want someone that will follow their lead, follow their directions, and bringing in a baked good to an interview is over the top. Once in the job, you can expand on your baking skills, but a prep cook is there to "prep." The risk of bringing in something is that they may see it as pushy. Having worked as a prep cook, no one likes a pushy, know it all prep cook. And even if you are not really that type of person, you don't want them to have that impression. The idea to call ahead and ask might be a better option if you really want to bring in something.

                                        1. The divergent opinions expressed so far really tell the story – you just never know what the hiring manager is thinking. Years of recruiting for a large firm and it never failed to surprise me when a hiring manager found some innocuous comment or action on the part of a candidate reason to cut them from consideration. People are fickle. And some, insecure.
                                          If you are set on bringing a sample, first find out what baked goods the restaurant currently sells and then bring something different, and not overly complicated. Try to find out, during the interview, if the position you are applying for will allow for you to use your own recipes. If so, offering a sample may be welcomed. If not, take your goodies home with you and enjoy.
                                          Good luck!

                                          1. Thanks all! After some serious thought I've decided to not bring along goodies to the interview. In this current economy I fear it's just a little too risky to possibly be seen as pushy. If I am offered the position there's plenty of time for baking in the future.

                                            I do like the idea of some "thank you" muffins, that would probably be a better route to take!

                                            1. As someone in the restaurant industry that has done hiring, I would strongly advise against this. Here's why:
                                              1: I have no idea if you actually made what you brought, or if a friend/mom/etc. did it for you.
                                              2: I have no idea who you are, and if you're not crazy. Could you have put something awful in those muffins? Probably not, but it's a possibility. Ever have your parents tell you not to take candy from strangers? Same thing.

                                              If I were holding an interview and a candidate brought something in to "show their work," it would go in the garbage (along with their resume) as soon as they left.

                                              1. I would assume that a "Mom and Pop place" wouldn't be interviewing dozens of people, so I would either drop in ahead of the interview and ask if that interests them, or call during what I knew to be their slow time and ask then. There may be some sort of health law where you live that forbids bringing food into a restaurant that has not been cooked there. For example, in most states, when a restaurant allows customers to bring a birthday cake for a dinner party dessert, the restaurant and he customer are breaking the law, but restaurants do it because they don't want to offend their customers. So asking is probably your best bet.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  Ditto on all counts.

                                                  And if you get the job...then you can bake something special for the owners on your month anniversary! I've had continuing ed students bring me a homemade treat after finishsing a final exam class.

                                                  Think big picture. But, land the job first.

                                                2. Glad you took our advice. Let us know how it goes.

                                                  1. Well folks, the joke is on me--when I showed up at the interview I was told he had hired someone the day before!!! No phone call, no e-mail, nothing...wasted time, gas, and hopes...at least I didn't show up carrying muffins! GRRRRRRRRR.......

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: KSlink

                                                      Oh damn. SO sorry, KSlink! Especially with the no phone call/Email to let you know ahead of time. I sure as hell hope he was apologetic about it!

                                                      1. re: KSlink

                                                        Sorry to hear. That same thing happened to me at a bakery. I guess they're so busy they just take people first come first serve but it seems odd not to interview all prospects and then decide. At least I received an e-mail before I went. Good luck with the job hunt!

                                                        1. re: KSlink

                                                          Disappointing, BUT....! Consider how fortunate you are not to work for people who are that thoughtless and uncaring. Sounds like a narrow and fortunate escape to me. Good luck from now on!

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            +1. Unexcusable, no matter how busy the place is.

                                                          2. re: KSlink

                                                            Too bad you didn't give him a whipped cream pie. With a full wind-up.

                                                            1. Yes, he was very apologetic about the whole thing. I was gracious and asked that he keep my resume if anything changed...back to pounding the pavements, so to speak!

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: KSlink

                                                                Wow, KSlink. I didn't see that coming! Well, good luck on your continuing search.
                                                                What you have there is a NAF OP in the making!

                                                                1. re: KSlink

                                                                  Good luck. It wouldn't hurt to keep an eye on that place. Many times a boss notices right away that a new hire will not work out and they go back to the drawing board.

                                                                  1. re: d8200

                                                                    But you might want to call ahead and confirm your appointment on the next interview. As wrong as it was for them to wait until you arrived for your interview to tell you that the job was filled, while you were deciding whether or not to bring samples a phone call would have confirmed the appropriateness of samples and confirmed your interview time/day. Two birds. Again, best of luck. There is nothing wrong with being proactive but this example demonstrates that you can't account for hiring practices. Best to ask.

                                                                  2. re: KSlink

                                                                    Flabbergasted and dumbfounded, what was I thinking when I said "hold on to my resume"??!?! Amazing what you will say when you are in shock.....

                                                                  3. FWIW after the fact. Sorry about your outcome:) Many years ago (1974) when I was still in culinary school I heard of a small restaurant being built/opened by three young guys. I went to the site (things were still being built) met the guys and wondered if they might be interested in a pastry chef. They had not even considered this and had a tiny bit of interest. They wanted to think about it and to consult their chef. I went home and stayed up all night making eclairs, cakes, pastries etc. Took a large box of samples and left it at the site for them. I got a call that evening that they wanted to hire me and quickly meet so they could work in the design for a pasty area in the kitchen!!! So, in my case it worked for me. Good luck in your search.

                                                                    1. I did, back in 2000 when the market was not so competitive. It was a small loaf of bread that I would leave 'as my business card.' Some people looked at it weird and didn't know what to do with it, but with my future employer they did. I was hired then and there.

                                                                      1. Maybe I'll stay at home for a couple of days and just make some brownies...l don't understand WHY this person didn't have the decency or common sense to call me ahead of time to let me know that the position had been filled.....DUH???

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: KSlink

                                                                          Did you made an appointment with him that day? They probably just completely forgot about the appointment.

                                                                          1. re: KSlink

                                                                            Consider it a boon not a downer. Maybe they are also as lax and forgetful with the paychecks and bills getting paid. Maybe we'll see them on Kitchen Nightmares.

                                                                            1. re: Quine

                                                                              Quine is on the track I was thinking, as oblivious as employers are these days to the pool of applicants (uhh it IS a 2-way street) that's a bad, really bad sign. to not respond to a resume is a given in any industry anymore but to flake, completely, on an interview makes ya wonder what they'd do on the day it's time to sign paychecks ("oh I was tired - sorry")

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                HAH!!! Believe it or not, a former employer used to run out of money every single week before payroll was complete--if you didn't get to the bank early, you were SOL!!!

                                                                          2. Maybe I'm different, but when I eventually open my restaurant I won't even consider hiring key kitchen help without seeing and tasting what they can do. Bringing some samples would definitely be a step in the right direction if it were me.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                              Samples can be made by someone else, or be the only good batch that turned out in 51 tries. But yes, auditioning is critical. Just as long as the food, is made from your supplies and all work down under your supervision.

                                                                              1. re: Quine

                                                                                Exactly. and "audition" is very different than bringing in a sample. Many places will try someone out for a half day, just to see what they can do in the job. not at home.

                                                                            2. HAH!!! This is too funny--I just got an e-mail stating that the employer had just reviewed my resume and wants me to come in for an interview...!!!

                                                                              Oh, like the one I showed up for last week??

                                                                              I'm still chuckling.......

                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                              1. re: KSlink

                                                                                I don't think I would be able to resist a polite if pointed reply "you do remember me, we met last week when I showed up for an interview? Did your hire not work out?"

                                                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                                                  I'm busting a gut here--I called to set up an interview (yes, that's how bad the job market is) and at the end of the conversation he said he was looking forward TO MEETING ME.....

                                                                                  I hung up before I could blurt out "OH, you mean like LAST week?"

                                                                                  Please pray for me.....that I don't walk in with a silly smirk on my face!

                                                                                  1. re: KSlink

                                                                                    Um, wow. This is not an operation I would want to work for.

                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                      In an ideal world...nor would I....but these days, you take what you can get!

                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                        I have to agree - this is VERY strange, KSlink!

                                                                                      2. re: KSlink

                                                                                        Well if you need a job you need a job. Hopefully, he will remember your face and understand that you are highly motivated to work there!

                                                                                        1. re: KSlink

                                                                                          At this point I'm thinking a bouquet of forget-me-nots ...

                                                                                          1. re: KSlink

                                                                                            The fact that your resume rose to the top twice is significant – go in confident! And, good luck, again.

                                                                                            1. re: KSlink

                                                                                              yeah and while tempting you can't - can not - get the least bit snippy. I was on the hiring end once for a complete different thing and somebody once got in a "you f#cked up mode" in the 2nd attempt 6 months later. seriously thinking he'd told us and we'd see the light (right I wanna see that type every day). clueless. play along, it's not a pissing contest.

                                                                                              and as well, do let them audition you on their turf if they wish.

                                                                                        2. It's 1:30 AM and I'm tossing the coin about even going in for this interview. An hour ago I decided against it....now I'm not so sure. It's a good half hour from here, and in the winter the main route is very often closed...and the "check engine" light went on while going up the mountain.....never mind, I think I've figured it out--DUH!!!

                                                                                          Thanks all!

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: KSlink

                                                                                            if you're in the Northern Hemisphere winter is a ways off and maybe by September you quit.. but then gas is insanely expensive these days. gotta figure if yer spending all the days wages on getting there and back. but drive time is good to practice one's yodeling I've found.

                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                              I went in for the interview/audition yesterday, and it seemed to go very well....and then I saw his ad for a cook on CL this morning!!!

                                                                                              1. re: KSlink

                                                                                                This guy just seems all over the place, KSlink. Half-hour away with potential for the drive to be bad in the winter? I'd probably take it for the nice weather, but rethink it in bad weather.

                                                                                          2. I have been following this thread for a few weeks because you are not alone. What is the name of the this place you mention?