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Top 6 Job Seeker Tips For Chefs And Cooks

While being a skilled cook or chef is the best way to get ahead cooking in the restaurant and food service industry, its not going to get you in the door to get an interview because potential employers haven’t seen your work to even know they should interview you. For that matter, you WON’T get an interview at all if you don’t follow some key job seeker tips and give them a resume that makes them want to talk to you. Don’t make the common mistakes most professional cooks and chefs make, follow these tips to greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

job seeker tips hiring manager pic

Here are the Top 6 Job Seeker Tips when applying for a cooking or chef job, coming from the founder of Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service, Brandon O’Dell.

  1. Don’t just fill out the application – Applications aren’t great tools for learning about applicants of skilled positions, like cooking. They don’t have a good structure to really tell about you. There’s room for basic information and that’s about it. If you really want a job, heed this job seeker tip and share what makes you more suited for it than the other people applying, why you’re a great fit for this job, and why you love to cook. If you do have to fill out an application for a position, attach a current resume and cover letter to it. Those are the tools you need to share your skills and passion to a potential employer.
  2. Read the ad, follow the directions – A smart employer will include directions or details in their ad to test whether you’re actually reading it, or if you’re simply scrolling through all the ads and “resume-dumping” (applying for every job you can). Employers don’t want resume dumpers unless they don’t respect their own business or the job they’re hiring you for. They want to know you’re actually interested in working for them and that you took time to learn what the job and company is about. If they can tell you didn’t even read the ad, you might as well not apply. Memorize this job seeker tip for every job you apply for; read the ad, follow the directions.
  3. Keep your resume updated and complete – The purpose of a resume is to share yourself with an employer. You can’t do that if you’re lazy about your resume. Giving an employer an incomplete resume (less than the last ten years work experience), or an outdated one sends a statement to them that you’re not really interested in working for them, or that you’ll be a lazy employee if you do. Put the same kind of effort into your job hunt that you will your job, because how you conduct yourself during the job hunt is the only clue a potential restaurant or food service has about how hard you’ll work for them.
  4. Avoid gaps in your work history – While employers don’t want to see a lot of information about your past positions that don’t have anything to do with cooking for food service work, they also don’t want to see big gaps in your resume. Another important job seeker to is to make sure if you were out of the industry for a time, you list what you were doing. Don’t spend a lot of time on the details of the position, but also don’t leave gaps that may lead them to assume you weren’t working. If you weren’t working, and had a good reason for it, list that too. Better you don’t leave it to their imagination.job seeker tips cooking pic
  5. Avoid looking like a job-hopper – A history of short tenures at multiple jobs is a red flag to potential employers. Cooks and chefs who haven’t stayed at their previous positions long tend to not last at their next one. An employer will overlook one or two short employment terms on your resume if you have a good reason for leaving, and your tenure at other jobs is longer. They know perfectly well that there are a lot of bad managers and bad restaurant jobs out there. If you’re lasting less than a year at most of them, their just going to assume you’re flighty and they’ll move on to the next candidate. If you do have a history of not staying at jobs long, follow this job seeker tip and consider leaving some of those jobs off your resume. Short tenures aren’t real experience and that employer doesn’t want to hear how you think you can “do it all” because you’ve worked at 10 different restaurants in the last 4 years.
  6. Know how to use a cover letter – If your cover letter reads something like, “I’m a hard worker who is eager to learn and make myself the best employee I can be for my next employer”, just forget the cover letter. Listen to this next job seeker tip very carefully and take it to heart, because THIS is the most common mistake job seekers make. Don’t put anything in a cover letter that applies to every job to which you’re applying. Statements like the one above belong in an introduction paragraph in your resume. Things that you want all potential employers to know about you belong in the resume, not the cover letter. A cover letter is where you talk about why you want to work for this company, and what skills or passion you have that make you a better fit for this particular position than any other applicant. If your cover letter is generic and isn’t speaking TO THIS EMPLOYER specifically, it isn’t going to be effective. A cover letter needs to be written new for each job you apply for. It needs to show that you looked into THIS company, and want THIS job; that you’re not just dumping your resume and the same cover letter on every job posting you can. That’s not an employee for a skilled position, that’s someone they hire to do a job anyone can do, and those jobs don’t pay as well.

Brandon O’Dell is the founder of Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service. He is also an operations and marketing consultant for the food service industry. His company, Friend That Cooks, prides itself in being “employee-centric”, offering pay and benefits not found in cooking positions elsewhere in the food service industry. If you would like to see employment opportunities available at Friend That Cooks, go to www.friendthatcooks.com/hiring

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Healthy Eating From Plant to Plate

Plant to Plate Meal Prep

Fresh Herb PlantFresh Herbs from PlantMeatball Marinara from fresh herb plant

From plant to plate! Our in-home #PersonalChefs will utilize your garden to help save money and add some extra flavor into your healthy weekly #mealprep dishes.

This meatball in marinara with pasta, broccoli and green beans is just one example of how our chefs can use fresh herbs and vegetables from your garden in the dishes. Using your own garden will not only save you money, but also insure that your getting the freshest ingredients.

As the summer goes on, you will start harvesting more herbs and veggies than you know what to do with. Let our chefs create dishes from your garden that you can freeze for later or eat right now. We can make tomato sauce, casseroles, bread, or soup to freeze for the winter. Or you could throw a huge veggie barbecue for your friends and we’ll do the cooking! Whatever you decide, let us help you get the most out of your green thumb.

Learn more about how we can utilize your garden ingredients and our meal prep services at our website!

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Goat Cheese Quiche Recipe

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Quiche

Egg facesQuiche is our favorite!  It is versatile, can be eaten at any time of day, and is super easy to make.  This recipe comes from our very own Christina Hoffeld in Chicago.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 store bought or scratch made crust
  • 6 eggs
  • 6-8 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 onion, caramelized
  • 2T chopped fresh chives

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Place the pie shell into a deep-dish pie pan and crimp the edges with a fork.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork.  Cover the interior of the shell with parchment paper and add baking beads or dried beans to weigh the crust down. Bake for 15 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile, combine eggs, cheese, cream caramelized onion and chives in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  
  4. Remove the parchment paper and baking beads from the par baked crust.  Pour the quiche filling into the crust and bake for 40 minutes more, or until set in the center.
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Shakshuka Recipe

Shakshuka Recipe

EggsShakshuka is probably one of the best egg dishes known to man.  A Middle Eastern dish of tomatoes, peppers, spices and eggs, this dish can be enjoyed at any time of day and rivals even the best Mexican chilaquiles.  Feel free to experiment with your own spice blends to make it your own!  But whatever you do, be sure to have lots of bread ready to soak up all that tomato goodness!

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 diced spicy pepper such as jalapeno, serrano or thai chili, depending on preference (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Pinch of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (1) 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 eggs, whole
  • Chopped parsley, about 1 handful
  • Crusty bread for serving

Procedure

  1. Prepare a grill or broiler on high heat.  Rub the bell peppers with olive oil and grill or broil until well charred on the outside skin.  Place in a heatproof bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove the charred skin, remove the seeds and stems and discard, and dice the peppers.  Set aside.  
  2. In a 12-inch frying pan with a lid, heat a small amount of olive oil on high heat.  Add the diced onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, but not browned.  
  3. Add the chili, if using, and continue to sauté until soft.  Add the spices and stir until fragrant.  
  4. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until a full, spicy aroma develops and the sauce thickens.  
  5. Carefully crack the eggs into the mixture and reduce the heat to low.  Cover the pan with the lid, and allow the eggs to steam in the mixture until cooked to your desired doneness- about 3 minutes for soft, 5 minutes for medium, or 7 minutes for hard cooked eggs.  
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread for dipping.
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Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

Nate Lane FTC
Chef Nate Lane of Friend That Cooks

Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

This month’s Chef Spotlight features one of our Kansas City chefs. Nate joined Friend That Cooks almost a year and a half ago and has really enjoyed working with the company. He started his education at Kansas State University with the goal of obtaining a degree in Dietetics. However, he soon realized he would rather work with food directly and transferred to Johnson County Community College for their renowned Culinary program. Shortly after, he obtained his Sous Chef Certification and began working for the Indian Hills Country Club. Since then, he has also worked as a Sous Chef at Garmin, and as a Storeroom Manager for the Art Institutes International of Kansas City.

New restaurants are always being added to his list of places to dine in order to keep an open palate and update his menu ideas. A few of his favorites include the Harvest at Renee Kelly’s, ABC Cafe, and El Salvadoreno. 

Nate enjoys supporting the KC Chiefs and Royals, playing frisbee golf, and spending time with friends and family. He looks forward to another year working with the FTC family. He lives in Lenexa with his wife and young daughter.

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Friend That Cooks Issues Challenge to Food Service Industry

It’s Time For Paid Maternity Leave

by Brandon O’Dell, Founder Friend That Cooks

Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service has added paid maternity leave to the benefits package for our personal chefs in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Wichita, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Denver in an effort to pressure the food service industry to adopt paid maternity leave as a standard benefit.

The food service industry has a long history of using up and burning out employees. I’ve been there myself. I worked the 60+ hour weeks as a low level manager, and 80-100 hour weeks as a general manager. I’ve spent years consecutively missing Easter celebrations with the family, and other holidays. As a food service consultant, one of my primary focuses in helping food services has been teaching them how to get the most out of their employees by giving the most to their employees. It only made sense when I started Friend That Cooks that I practice what I preach when it comes to my own employees.

Benefits in a small business are very difficult to budget for. We don’t start out with the economy of scale our larger counterparts have, and government regulations like The Affordable Care Act create a large hurdle for companies looking to transition from small businesses into large ones. They create a “barrier to entry” making it so expensive to be a big business, that it becomes impossible for most small businesses to get there. We small businesses compete with those same companies for employees though, so it is very important for us to pay as well or better, and to offer comparable benefits if we want to compete for those employees. For companies like mine, it means starting out offering what benefits we can, then improving them as you can afford to.

From the day I started Friend That Cooks I treated our company like it was going to become a large business. I created our services with a 8-5, weekday work schedule in mind for myself and our future chefs. I wanted cooks and chefs to have an option if they didn’t want to sacrifice their personal lives for evening, weekend and holiday hours that are mandatory with most restaurants, caterers and other food services. I knew we were going to have to offer benefits as we grew to keep those employees from leaving to work for other food service companies, so as we’ve been able to afford it, we’ve added a healthcare bonus to help pay for health insurance. We added flex hours without restrictions so employees could decide whether to use them for sick days, holidays, personal days, or just to pad a light paycheck. We added a fuel supplement because our employees work off-site at our client’s homes. Most recently, we’ve added paid maternity leave for both female and male employees and a retirement plan. I also came up with a pay scale that allows our cooks to earn around 50% more per hour than they can on the line at a restaurant, caterer or meal delivery business.

No matter how big or small you are, all the businesses within a sector, like food service, are competing for the same employees. Usually the big names get the top talent, and the rest of us have to spend more money training to create talent. Within the food service industry though, employees at both big and small companies have to sacrifice a lot to have an actual career, missing dinners with friends, birthdays and holidays with the family. Usually without benefits.

Friend That Cooks does NOT accept that employees have to sacrifice their personal lives to have a career in the food service industry. We do NOT accept that holidays are just another mandatory shift, nor Friday night or Saturday night. We do NOT accept that the best employees should have the most work put on them, making up the slack of less productive employees, nor make the same pay as less productive employees. We do NOT accept that our industry is one where you shouldn’t expect benefits. We do NOT accept that mothers and fathers in the food service industry with new children shouldn’t have a few months to bond with their children before choosing to return to work, just as they do in some other industries. Most importantly, we do NOT accept that government force should be required to make the food service industry adopt employment policies that are beneficial to itself if done voluntarily, because they can be very detrimental when done by force. That’s why we’re going to apply some pressure to the industry organically by offering more ourselves.

We are challenging our food service industry counterparts to do the right thing. Consider the needs of your most valuable asset, your employees. We challenge you to start with an inexpensive and easy to implement benefit, then build off of that. We are challenging you to offer paid maternity leave of some sort to both female and male employees.

Paid maternity leave is a huge benefit for an employee. As a two-time father, I realize how important it is to have time to bond with your new son or daughter. You can never have back those first few months to build the foundation of your relationship with your child. Especially in a job where 60+ hour weeks are mandatory like most food service management jobs, and missing your family is expected.

For an employer, paid maternity leave is not a huge expense. It’s really fairly affordable. It’s maybe 1/2 or 2/3 pay for one, two, or three months. It can even be extended to indefinite leave beyond that without pay or cost, as long as it’s also without penalty. Consider how few times you have an employee welcome a new baby. It’s rare. If you don’t retain that employee, or others that leave for better benefits, you have to hire and train a replacement which might mean $250 in help ads, $100+ in new uniforms, and several hundred in training labor expenses. Not to mention the hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost productivity until that new employee is as good as the lost employee. I think we all know that it’s cheaper to retain help than it is to replace them.

Even if they don’t include maternity leave, your benefits are one of your most valuable tools to retain employees. Your food service employees want a quality of life they see other people enjoy, and that doesn’t always mean more pay. In the food service industry, especially full service restaurants, many employees already enjoy good pay. But what happens when they need time off? Especially extended time for something like having a baby?

Friend That Cooks recently experienced this dilemma when we faced our first occurrence of an employee planning a birth. We decided that the right thing to do for both the employee and for ourselves was to offer paid leave. Our employee got 2/3 of their average paycheck for the first two months after their leave started. They got 1/2 of their average paycheck for a third month, and began light duties part time to ease back into work and maintain more pay. Our employees also have the opportunity to have indefinite unpaid leave after that, without penalty, and we will hold a position for them for as long as they need.

From our employee’s perspective, this is a safety net. It provides stability for a new parent during a time that I personally know is incredibly crazy. It provides piece of mind to know there is no chance of losing their job, their seniority or momentum in their chosen career. From our perspective, we save the cost of replacing a valuable employee. In some instances, we will likely have to hire a new employee to pick up some of the extra work, but it won’t be because we lost someone good. We also won’t have to pay for help ads, uniforms and training for the next new hire because we will have one returning to us from maternity leave within a few months.

This is my challenge to the food service industry, both large and small businesses. Reconsider what you are offering for benefits. I know that health care plans have skyrocketed in the last few years, so you can only do so much on that front. There are many other things important to employees though, and many benefits you can offer that truly are affordable. Stop thinking in terms of “This is just how it is in the food service industry”, and think of non-traditional perks you can offer employees, or different ways to offer traditional perks. Create a small budget and build on it as you can. Do the small things until you can afford the large things. Offer paid maternity leave as a start.

Friend That Cooks is still a fairly small, but growing operation. We aren’t 100% where we want to be with our benefits program yet, but we are close and we have a plan to get the rest of the way. In the future our healthcare benefit will increase, eventually to a full blown group health plan when possible. For now, we do what we can until we can do more. The rest of you should do the same, and a HUGE pat on the back to those of you who already do.

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Round 2 Battle of the Brands

#MarchMadness in KC

We made it past Round 1 of the 2017 Battle of the Brands and need your votes again to make it to the #SweetSixteen of this #NCAATourney bracket style competition! #KCBattle2017

Followers from all the cities we service are welcome to vote once per round, from each of their devices. Voting starts each week Monday morning, and concludes Thursday at midnight.

A vote for Friend That Cooks is a vote to support our mission of providing a better “quality of life” for our clients AND our chefs through #healthy and #affordable weekly #mealprep.

Comeback next week to see if we made it to the next round!

 

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Battle of the Brands

Battle of the Brands bracket
Let the battle begin!

We’re in!

We made it into the 2017 Battle of the Brands in Kansas City! It’s a NCAA tournament bracket style competition to choose Kansas City’s favorite brands. We’ll go up against one other company each round, with four days to get people to vote for us. The winner with the most votes advances to the next round for more voting.

The voting in each round runs Monday thru Thursday and votes can be cast once per round from each device a voter owns.

We have followers for our service in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Paul. We would be honored for all of you to show Kansas City how much influence you can have on a Kansas City contest! #KCBattle2017

Visit the KC Battle of the Brands webpage and vote for Friend That Cooks in the Second Stage Companies bracket. While you’re there, show some love to some other great Kansas City brands. Some of our favorites include Studio Build, Shammerific Shine and Innovating Solutions. Share our post with your friends to spread the word!

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Chef Spotlight | Jillian Mahl

In out Chef Spotlight this month

…we introduce you to Jillian Mahl, a Friend That Cooks personal chef servicing clients in Des Moines, IA.

jillian bio pic
Jillian Mahl, Friend That Cooks personal chef in Des Miones, IA

Chef Jillian Mahl has been cooking professionally for 13 years.  She started out, as all good chefs do, at the bottom of the proverbial food chain in a fine dining restaurant in Omaha,NE and worked her way up from there. She graduated top of her class in Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center, New York City in 2010 and went on to work in several NYC restaurants such as Restaurant Allegretti and Bergdorf Goodman.

She returned to the Midwest after several years on the coast to pursue a personal business venture.  In 2015, she joined the FTC family in Omaha, NE.  She now cooks for her clients in Des Moines, Iowa.

When she isn’t working, Jillian enjoys playing with anything involving yarn and needles, reading about all sorts of real and fictional things, practicing Tae Kwon Do and yoga, and visiting with her gentleman friend.

Watch our Chef Spotlight every month to learn about another Friend That Cooks personal chef. Visit www.friendthatcooks.com to learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks.