By Freddie Rohner, CMRW, Resume Services Product Manager, iHireChefs
While chef and head cook jobs are projected to grow 11% by 2028 (much quicker than average), competition for these highly sought-after positions is still tough. A culinary portfolio is a great tool for highlighting your unique talents and setting yourself apart from the competition – especially if you’re interested in working in an upscale restaurant or hotel where you’ll have to work harder to stand out from other candidates.
Your culinary portfolio is something you can bring to an interview to accompany your resume or share with prospective employers in your network. Along with your work history and achievements, it gives you a chance to elaborate on your qualifications and share examples of your work. A great culinary portfolio will show off what makes you different from other talented chefs through three main components: background, achievements, and visuals. Here’s which ingredients you should mise en place when preparing your portfolio.
Providing your professional background information is critical for employers to assess your qualifications. Consider this the resume portion of your portfolio and include the following areas:
- About Me. Use this section to introduce yourself as a candidate and summarize your qualifications. Think about it this way: If a hiring manager said, “Tell me about yourself,” what would you want them to know? You can give a brief synopsis of your professional background, mention the styles of cooking you’re familiar with or specialize in, and talk about the type of position you’re interested in landing. You’ll also want to provide your contact information, so prospective employers know how to reach you.
- Work Experience. Dig into your professional history here. List the jobs you’ve held (including dates of employment), give a brief explanation of your duties, and mention any specific achievements.
- Education and Credentials. Where did you go to school? Do you hold an ACF Certification or other culinary credentials? If you’ve had any other impressive professional development opportunities, like working under a well-known chef, include those. Name-dropping is appropriate (and encouraged) in this case.
Next, share any honors or acknowledgements that you’ve received. They’ll set you apart from other candidates and give you more credibility, even if you haven’t yet reached celebrity-chef status. Incorporate these components into your portfolio:
- Awards and Accolades. If you’ve placed in cooking competitions, won industry awards, or received recognition for excellence by an employer, put those in the spotlight. Include honors such as Michelin Stars, AAA Diamonds, and Forbes Stars, and be sure to list your most prestigious accolades first. This will help you shine as a top candidate.
- Media Recognition. Have you been written up in a magazine? Gotten a positive online review? Or, maybe you’ve appeared on a television show. Any public recognition you can add will serve as a testament to your talent and qualifications as a chef.
This is the “prove it” section, and the reason why culinary portfolios are more powerful than a resume alone. No matter how solid your work experience sounds, visual demonstrations of your expertise – professional photos of your food, carefully crafted menus, or a social media account with engaged followers – can be more convincing than even the most impressive resumes. (Remember the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words?”) Include these items for a portfolio that wows your potential employers:
- Photos. Select a few high-quality pictures of your most appealing dishes. They’ll serve as further proof that you’re skilled in the kitchen and have an eye for plating.
- Sample Menus and Recipes. Show prospective employers that you have more to offer than just an expertly cooked meal. By including examples of menus and recipes you’ve developed, you’ll show that you have the creative and strategic vision to oversee a kitchen. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs who have strong business skills and a knack for culinary innovation will be able to attain the highest-paying jobs. Note: If you’re wary about giving away your exact recipes, feel free to conceal special details.
- Website and Social Media. If you want to go the extra mile, make a digital version of your portfolio. This gives you more options for presenting your qualifications and allows you (and employers) to share your portfolio more easily.
Consider linking to your social media page(s) in your digital portfolio. A large following, impressive photos and videos, and positive engagement can help convince hiring managers and recruiters that you’re a talented, established chef.
Notably, having a strong social media presence may get you a job that you didn’t even apply for: 84.9% of chefs use social media for work purposes and 74.7% use it for networking. So, a robust social media channel could attract the attention of others in the industry who are looking to hire a chef like you.
An effective culinary portfolio will combine professional experience, top achievements, and compelling visuals to create a holistic overview of your qualifications and strengths. Whether you’re a seasoned line cook hoping to advance your career or an executive chef looking for your next move, a well-crafted portfolio can set you apart from the competition and help you land your dream job.
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