Job Profile: The Ski Chalet Chef
When someone talks about working at a ski resort, you probably immediately picture them teaching people how to ski, the glamour job, the instructor. In fact the majority of people who work in a ski resorts find themselves behind the scenes in the service industries, working in hotels, restaurants, or chalets. Of the millions of people who head to a ski resort each winter, plenty of them will be quite happy to ski by themselves, without any ski tuition, but there is one thing that almost all of them expect someone else to do for them while in resort, and that is cook their food! Enter the chalet chef.
Our two previous job profiles, the chalet host and the chalet couple, have touched upon cookery, and how it is a part of those jobs, but this profile is specifically for the people who are being hired to show off their existing skills as a chef or cook.
In the seven years we have been recruiting ski season job vacancies, we have had a few interesting and slightly more unusual roles to fill, but the one we regard as our favourite is the chalet chef. People travel to ski resorts every winter in their millions, and they all have to eat, so it stands to reason hiring a chef or cook to cater for them is a perfectly sensible and obvious role, the challenge for us is to find people willing to go and work for six months in a ski resort. We receive plenty of applications each year, but finding the chefs who will bring a grin to the face of our recruiters is the part we really enjoy. Read on to find out how to get hired as a ski chalet chef.
Most chefs experience is limited to a hidden away kitchen, but in a chalet role you absolutely have to be prepared to interact with the customers. Your kitchen may be on view and you are unlikely to have someone to do the carrying the food out to the tables part for you. Your ability to talk to clients and be personable is something that will be looked for both on the phone and at interview.
One question we always get asked is how qualified you have to be. Our stock reply is that you don't need a Michelin star chef, but if you are, please send us your CV! The level of experience requested by chalet companies can vary, but most will ideally be hunting for someone with head chef experience, partly because they are likely to be better chefs, and partly because they will be used to the responsibility of running a kitchen. If you are a commis chef or you just like hosting your own dinner parties at home then the competition means you will probably be overlooked, though we have seen competent sous chefs get hired. The chalet chef works alone for the majority of employers, so they don't want to take a risk on someone who has not held that level of responsibility before.
A fair number of ski chalets build their reputation on serving great food; it is what brings their guests back year after year. These chalets often ask us to send them chefs who have Rosette or even Michelin experience. Last year we received an application for a chef who had worked quite high up at a two star establishment, and had a decade of great experience. We had a handful of chalet companies recruiting for chefs at the time and there was a bit of a bun fight to get him. We pride ourselves on being able to deliver top quality candidates and love the positive feedback we get from our recruiters.
The Menu Plan
As part of the application process that you are expected to go through, most, if not all chalet companies will expect you to prepare an example menu. Don’t underestimate this stage of you application as it can make or break your chances of getting hired. Just last week we sent a pretty great looking CV for a chef vacancy and were confident he would get an interview, but when we spoke to the recruiter, they had been disappointed by the menu plan they had received and he was out of the running. Try to find out the kind of food the company you are applying to like to serve to their guests, and make sure you inspire them.
To get an expert opinion on menu plans and what you should be including in yours, we spoke to Anne Woolley, who recruits chalet chefs for Ski Cuisine, a company which, as the name suggests, places a real emphasis on fantastic food!
"At Ski Cuisine we employ career chefs rather than those who have completed a chalet cookery course or have very limited experience.
The main thing we look for in a chef and their menu plan is a bit of originality and flair. Anyone can send us a competent menu, but to demonstrate that extra something we are looking for, it needs to show that have thought about where they are going to be cooking, at what time of year, and with what ingredients. You may make the best summer berries pudding in the UK, but you aren't going to be working in July so we don't want to see it on your plan.
Here in Savoie region we have superb local ingredients; find out what they are and build some dishes around them. Think about the range of guests you will be serving by including meals suitable for children and for those with special dietary requirements. And show us that you can adapt your menus."
A word of caution
We have talked about this a few times and are probably at risk of sounding like a broken record, but it happens every year so worth highlighting again. As a chalet chef, when you get to the ski resort, you will have plenty of opportunities during the season to take advantage of the free ski pass and equipment hire. Try to avoid the temptation to think skiing or snowboarding is a piece of cake if you have never done it before. Ski chalets have to recruit twice, more often that they would like; once for a chef as we have discussed above, and once for another chef to replace the first chef who had to limp home with ski related injuries.