Why you should highlight leadership on your resume for chef and head cook positions

Including leadership experience will set you apart from the other applicants in your job pool

If you're applying for chef or head cook positions, you already know to include your technical skills, but unlike a line cook or a sous chef, chefs and head cooks must possess skills beyond fine knife work, since they'll be the ones leading an entire team in the kitchen; being a qualified chef requires many of the same skills as being an effective leader. What's more, employers in this industry frequently indicate that they're looking for leadership skills when they hire.

Why you should highlight leadership on your resume for chef and head cook positions

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects chef and head cook positions to grow by 9 percent between 2014 and 2024, so need for leaders in the food service industry will only become more apparent. Depending on the restaurants you're applying to, the duties of chefs and head cooks can range from creating menus to overseeing the smooth running of all operational aspects in the kitchen. However, the major duties of all chef and head cook positions require a diverse array of skills, all linked to being an effective leader.

Creative Figurehead

Chefs must serve as creative figureheads for their kitchen, developing recipes, deciding plating appearances, and, if the job is for a franchise, ensuring consistency in all restaurant locations. In order to successfully execute these tasks, chefs need to showcase their leadership skills: the ability to effectively communicate with members of their team and restaurant management in order to achieve unified output in their kitchen. Chefs should also be able to break down their innovative ideas into workable tasks, and they should understand how to allocate these tasks in order to execute their broader creative vision — all qualities of a leader. After all, a kitchen is only as successful as its chef, and a chef's ability to actualize their ideas using communication skills is vital to a well-run restaurant.

Team Management and Communication

Of course, the most obvious display of leadership for chefs and head cooks lies in managing sous chefs and line cooks. From ensuring that all dishes are prepared in a timely manner to making sure that morale in the kitchen remains high over the course of a dining period, being a strong and well-organized leader is essential to carrying out these duties. While chefs need to be assertive and firm, they must also display the ability to communicate with a variety of different personalities, and it's imperative to make sure that all members of a kitchen team feel supported, appreciated, and challenged.

But sous chefs and line cooks aren't the only personalities that need to be dealt with: chefs and head cooks are also responsible for communicating with others, including managers, waitstaff, the restaurant owner(s), and potentially even customers. The best chefs, like the best leaders, understand the needs of all of these groups and can communicate effectively with each in order to achieve optimal results and maintain calm in the restaurant — and as anyone who's worked in the food industry knows, restaurants can get crazy.

Quick Thinking

Running a kitchen is fast-paced, so chefs and head cooks must also be able to think on their feet and act coolly under pressure, sometimes coming up with creative solutions on the fly. When these solutions aren't aligned within their initial vision, chefs should be adaptable and reasonable, looking at the big picture — as well as understanding the minutia of every task. Chefs and head cooks must possess acute attention to the details that go into making every dish perfect, acting as the final quality control on behalf of the kitchen they are leading, while continuing to motivate a team of cooks.

Include These Skills on Your Resume

In order to increase your chances of landing a position as a chef or head cook, it's imperative to list previous leadership experience and relevant skills on your resume, like those listed above. You could even include projects (personal or otherwise) that you've overseen or volunteer experiences that you've undertaken. Even if you've never held a formal leadership position, it's important to convey to potential employers that you have the leadership skills necessary to succeed in the high-stress, high-stakes environment of a restaurant kitchen.


Don't Forget

If you're applying to be a chef or head cook, include prior leadership experience on your resume — even if it had nothing to do with cooking. Here's why:

  • Employers want resourceful chefs who can communicate with everyone in the restaurant, from line cooks to owners and even customers.
  • Chefs who are good leaders are better at delegating tasks, coming up with creative recipes, and maintaining positive morale in the kitchen.

In addition to including your leadership skills on your resume, don't forget to mention any technical skills and formal training, too.

For more information, check out:

6 Career Lessons Learned in the Restaurant Business

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