x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chef shops for talent ahead of big opening

The Life: Setting up the culinary outlets at a new hotel requires plenty of prep work. John Cordeaux, executive chef of the Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, discusses his recruitment strategies for finding new talent.

John Cordeaux is on a recruitment drive for Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, which will open in September. Delores Johnson / The National
John Cordeaux is on a recruitment drive for Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, which will open in September. Delores Johnson / The National

For a head chef, setting up the culinary outlets at a new hotel requires plenty of prep work. John Cordeaux is the executive chef at the Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, which is to open in September. In his second interview in our series, he discusses strategies for recruiting talent.

When we last spoke, you said the first step to getting started would be hiring staff. How did that process begin?

I've been on that even before I left Abu Dhabi [as executive chef at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr] in early March. There are many avenues we use: CaterGlobal.com, recruitment agencies, recruitment trips, our internal job requisition system called Pathfinder so all our internal candidates can apply first.

How many people do you need to hire?

From a company perspective, I'll be hiring 150 culinary and stewarding employees and over 600 employees in total.

What kinds of candidates do you look for?

The most important thing is people who, predictably, are passionate and excited about delivering great service. That's the key at the end of the day - people who are happy themselves. From a culinary perspective, it's very specific: you need to have the culinary criteria and ability to cook in a certain dimension, whether a Chinese restaurant, steakhouse or Italian restaurant.

From that pile of résumés, how many candidates ultimately get interviewed?

Honestly, I'd say no more than 5 per cent. You read through them and only interview people who you think really have a lot of potential. You'll interview at least three to four candidates a day.

How do you filter out mediocre candidates?

You see how the candidates have fared on the talent score, and then you look at the résumé: does that person have the appropriate experience for the job you're trying to fill? It's very much trying to match the particular talent of the person to the job you're trying to fill. There's a lot of filtering, and it takes time… Sometimes somebody's résumé might not give them justice; they might say they've worked in a certain position, kitchen or hotel, but they've actually done many different things in that position.

Do chefs and servers also have a test they go through?

Absolutely. Honestly, we don't have a kitchen right now; as soon as we get a kitchen up and running, we'll have people in for a cooking test. When [potential servers] come in for an interview with a food and beverage director, there are many ways to talk through the sequence of service and how one approaches a table and guest.

Have you had to increase salaries lately to compete with other hotels on the hiring front?

We have competitive salaries and accommodations. I'm a passionate believer in our brand and culture, and a lot of the potential employees in the Emirates feel that too.

* Neil Parmar