How to Check References for a Personal Chef

Hong Kong

Published on December 27, 2016

A vital part of any recruitment process involves checking the references of the candidates you are considering. Whether you are interviewing and recruiting yourself, or you’ve requested an agency to do this for you, you must check references to ensure the staff member you’re choosing is suitable for your household. A CV, interview, and trial will only give you so much information about the personal Chef you’re looking to hire. Speaking to previous employers can give you a valuable understanding of the level of experience, skills, and personality of the Chef you’re considering. But do you know how to check references for a personal chef? In this guide, we reveal the truth about reference check etiquette so that you can be successful in your recruitment.

Legal Obligations

It is important to note that corporate businesses are not legally obliged to give detailed references; they only have to confirm that the person worked for them, their job role and the dates of employment.

If the Chef provides references from a previous job such as a hotel or restaurant, you may be more likely to receive a sparse reference.

However, in the domestic sector former employers are potentially inclined to give you more information, or they may be willing to chat about their experiences with the Chef- whether they were positive or negative. Having a full or part time Chef in your house around your family and children is, after all, a highly personal experience.

What Kind of References to Expect and Request?

Written References

A Chef might provide references that their former employers have already written. This gives you a good starting point for reference checking- the fact that former employers have made the effort to write and provide a reference tends to be a good sign.

However, all written references should be verified. When hiring a new personal Chef it is important to be diligent and thorough, and not assume all references are truthful straight off the bat.

Unfortunately there can be people out there pretending to be someone they’re not. If written references are not verified there is a risk that you and your family could be victims of fraud.

Do always ask for email addresses and phone numbers of the referees too, so you can verify that the reference is indeed truthful.

Contact Details

When they don’t have written references, a candidate may provide a phone number or an email address from a previous employer.

This shouldn’t be a problem, but try to have a list of reference check questions ready when you speak to the referee. This will ensure you get all the information you need to make a hiring decision about the personal Chef. Please see below for some suggested reference check questions.

Do ask the candidate to provide both an email address and a telephone number. People can be busy, so find a time to speak to the referee that suits you both. This will allow you to gather much more information as you will both be focused on the task at hand. Plus, you’ll pick up on more of the referee’s personal experiences with the Chef.

If email is the only option to check references, then make sure you list specific questions so that you can gather the information that’s important to you about the potential employee.

Character References

Character references are references written or provided by someone who has a personal connection to the candidate. This could be a friend, family member of former colleague – though a character reference is never from a former employer.

The option of obtaining a character reference is a personal choice. Many agencies will not accept character references, or will only use it to accompany and compliment at least two professional references.  

However, some people prefer a character reference as they tend to reveal a little more about a candidate’s personality. You may understand a little more how they will perform in a private setting, which is extremely important when hiring a personal Chef.

Do be mindful of character references, as they can sometimes give a biased view of the candidate.

Temporary, Long Term and Recent References

Hiring a #PrivateChef? What you need to know about their references. Click To Tweet

There is a big difference between a reference from a temporary role and one from a long term job in a private household. Although references for short term and temporary roles can be useful, they will be limited in what they can tell you about a candidate.

Make sure the candidate gives you the contact details of their most recent, and longest-term employments.

But what if there are no recent jobs, or what if every role has been short term? Ask why.

There may be a very plausible explanation for this- perhaps the candidate was studying, or had other responsibilities at the time- but it is important to get clarity on this and erase any grey areas in their work history.

What to Ask When You Check References for a Personal Chef

Now you have established what kind of references to get, here is a suggested list of questions to ask when contacting a referee.

These questions can be fairly general, but they can also go into as much detail as you feel is necessary. Checking a reference is a great opportunity to find out more about a candidate and their history.

Confirm the exact dates of employment

Does this match up with the information the candidate provided?

Why was the employment terminated?

Were there any specific reasons regarding skills or behaviour? Were things left on good or bad terms?

What was the exact job description?

The role of a Private Chef can be extremely different depending on the family.  Was the Chef performing the tasks you need in the previous families they worked for? Consider meal preparation, full preparation and service of dinner every evening, sourcing of ingredients and completing shopping, setting the table, preparing breakfast, lunch and snacks etc.

Outstanding knowledge and skills

Did the Chef have any outstanding knowledge of specific dietary requirements, types of cooking and preparation of food? Did they have knowledge of more complex dishes or fairly unknown flavours?

What are their strengths, their weaknesses and in what areas could they improve?

Try to see if there are any problem areas you haven’t already uncovered from previous questions.

Are there any negative points about the candidate that you should be aware of?
Are they fit and healthy, and what are their energy levels like?

Character and behaviour?

Think about: punctuality, friendly to be around, flexibility with hours or changing tasks, organisation skills. Willing to go the extra mile when needed? Did they leave the kitchen clean and organised after each use?

Would you rehire them if the situation arose? Would you recommend them for a similar role?

Look for any warning bells. If the referee states they would not rehire the candidate or they would not recommend the Chef. Then ask yourself if you should employ them yourself. Ask for explanations in the event that they would not rehire the personal Chef.

How Can Polo & Tweed Help?

At Polo & Tweed we check references for hundreds of Chefs – so we can always share our tips and advice on this. Do you need any help finding a new chef for your household? We can help! Please do not hesitate to contact us today for a chat, some insider knowledge on how to check references. Or to find your perfect personal Chef using our expert services.


  1. Christina Newton says:


    Weigh Inn hotel is looking for a Chef who can cook for more than 30 dish’s

    • mm Aafke Meelen says:

      Thank you for getting in touch – one of our recruitment consultants will contact you directly over email. If you would like to reach out directly in the mean time, you can do so via our website here.

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