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Chefs' qualifications should be given professional respect

21 September 2006

I am writing to you to highlight the rising trend in working interviews/skills tests.

I cannot see the value of arriving in an unfamiliar kitchen, nervously seeking equipment and attempting to judge the efficiency of any ranges, ovens, pans, etc, possibly after a long journey. These sessions prove little other than a chef's eligibility for Ready, Steady, Cook.

Should we ask other trades to complete a demonstration of their skills? Perhaps a kitchen porter should wash a pan to be submitted to a judging panel, or a manager should deal with a suitably irate customer.

It is possible that no interviewing panel is sufficiently skilled to judge suitability through probing questions, or to judge character. Is a 20-minute slot enough to demonstrate several years' experience or be a reliable guide to gaining a post?

I feel this is the catering industry's vote of no confidence in its qualifications, as insistence on a skills test completely devalues any certification a candidate may hold. You can't trust them, obviously!

A probationary period seems more than adequate to assess someone's suitability. A chef's skills are about teamwork, character and organisational abilities. They are more than just a circus pony, so treat them with professional respect. This industry is hard enough as it is.

RA Horton Denton Burn
Newcastle-upon-Tyne

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