Chef Wanted: Anne Burrell Talks About Potential Candidates and Her Own Job Interviews

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Food Network host, Anne Burrell, from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.

This Thursday night on Food Network (10pm/9c), Anne Burrell will be putting her mentor hat back on as she helps top restaurants find an executive chef — the critical employee who can make or break a restaurant — on Chef Wanted. Each week, Anne Burrell will put four candidates through the toughest job interview of their lives, testing everything from their culinary mettle to business acumen. It all ends with the biggest test of all: running the restaurant.

We recently chatted with Anne about being a mentor: identifying red flags on resumes, the hard questions she has to ask and even her own toughest job interview.

What is the best question to ask a potential candidate?

AB: There are a few questions I always ask. The first really important question is why do you want this job? This is to see if they’re looking for any job or if they’re actually interested in this particular job. Second, why did you get into cooking? I want to find out if this is their passion or just a job to them.

What are your long-term goals? I want to see if they’re committed to the job or if this is a stepping-stone to something else. If I’m going to go through the interview process with them, I want someone who will stay for the long haul.

Lastly, I ask, "What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with?" Because I’m curious.

What’s the biggest difference between being a mentor on Worst Cooks and being a mentor on Chef Wanted?

AB: There’s a huge difference because on Worst Cooks in America, the people know they’re terrible and they’re trying to learn and improve. On Chef Wanted, I’m dealing with experienced chefs so it’s a tough comparison. But one thing that is always similar is the tough-love component. I always want to push people to dig deep and strive to do their best.

What was your own toughest/most memorable job interview?

AB: When I was interviewing for Lidia Bastianich. She told me to go to the basement kitchen and grate seven fresh roots of horseradish; after five minutes, my eyes and nose were watering and I could barely see. Even worse, after 10 minutes everyone else's eyes in the kitchen were watering, too, and they were yelling at me asking what I was doing there. I was just following Lidia’s directions!

What's the best piece of advice for a job-seeking chef?

AB: Decide what you want to do and what job you want to have and go for it. Don’t just try for anything. Be respectful, be humble, don’t have an attitude and make really good food.

What’s the biggest red flag on a chef’s resume?

AB: Someone who has a big gap in time of unemployment and someone who has jumped around a lot and only worked at places for a short time.

Since we're full-swing into the summer months, what's your after-work summer drink suggestion?

AB: Vodka gimlets on the rocks.

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Anne Burrell Bio

With her trademark spiky blond hair and pumped-up personality, Anne Burrell has worked at some of the top restaurants in New York and studied the culinary landscape and traditions of Italy. Anne makes restaurant dishes accessible and reveals concise, easy-to-master techniques for the at-home cook on her Food Network series Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. On her show Chef Wanted, Anne helps top restaurateurs find candidates with the right experience and creativity to become executive chefs. On Worst Cooks in America, Anne joins Tyler Florence in mentoring teams of hopeless home cooks from around the country, putting them through culinary boot camp. In 2011, Anne published her first cookbook, Cook Like a Rock Star, which gives home cooks the confidence and support to be rock stars in their own kitchens. Her cookbook earned a place on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2013, Anne released her second cookbook, Own Your Kitchen. Growing up in upstate New York, Anne developed a passion for food and cooking at an early age. After obtaining an English and communications degree from Canisius College in Buffalo, she pursued her interest in the restaurant business by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America. Following graduation, she spent a year in Italy attending the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners while working at La Taverna del Lupo in Umbria and La Bottega del' 30, a Michelin one-star restaurant in Tuscany. During this year, Anne grew to truly appreciate and understand the philosophy of Italian cuisine and culture, which left a lasting impact on her culinary point of view. Upon her arrival in New York City, Anne was hired as a sous chef at Felidia, working with Lidia Bastianich. She then served as a chef at Savoy, where she cooked over an open wood fire and created flavorful menus inspired by Mediterranean countries. Here Anne developed her personal culinary style: rustic food made with pure and simple ingredients with intense flavors. Anne then took the opportunity to spread her culinary knowledge and passion as a teacher at the Institute of Culinary Education. After three years, Anne went back to the restaurant business, serving as the executive chef at Lumi. As the executive chef at New York hot spot Centro Vinoteca from its opening in July 2007 through September 2008, Anne served up her "creative-authentic" Italian menu of small plates (piccolini), antipasti, pastas and main courses accented by her trademark bold, pure flavors.

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