What Makes a Chef Great? Five Defining Qualities

A list of traits to look for when hiring

Hiring top-notch staff is a tough task in 2022, especially in hospitality. With lockdowns and border restrictions limiting the arrival of skilled immigrants, it has caused a huge staff shortage within the sector. Finding talented chefs is particularly difficult.


To be a chef requires a wide variety of skills unique to the profession. There’s cooking (obviously), cleaning, prepping, fast-paced communication, food presentation, and the list goes on and on. Learning and understanding these skills will certainly go a long way, but what makes a great chef, truly great?


Looking beyond practical skills, we think that there are 5 key characteristics that help define an exceptional chef. So, the next time you’re hiring, be on the lookout for these distinct qualities:



Many people misjudge the amount of creativity that’s required in commercial cooking. Sure, a lot of it is following instructions and recipes, but as chefs progress through the ranks it becomes almost essential.


Great chefs can use their imaginations to invent new and exciting experiences through the power of food. This means intricate presentation and creative blending of flavours.



A hard work ethic will only get you so far in this industry. To be truly great requires something much deeper.


A passionate chef stands out amongst the crowded kitchen for their love for food and attention to detail. They won’t settle for second-rate cooking and will continue to push their ideas no matter the circumstance.



Due to the fast-paced nature of the commercial kitchen, a chef’s attentiveness needs to be razor-sharp. Understanding your surroundings and situations is key to surviving a busy shift.


A great chef will also be an attentive listener, who is always open to hearing the opinions of others. An ideal back-of-house environment allows for staff to be heard and acknowledged, as there are often good ideas just waiting to be aired.


Clear communicator

When it comes to important qualities, being a clear communicator could quite possibly be the most important for a chef. A successful kitchen will march to the beat of those leading it vocally, so if your communication is off, it will quickly disrupt the harmony.


A top chef will remain calm under pressure and be able to deliver clear and concise instructions around the room, even during a rush.



Positivity is perhaps one of the most underrated qualities when it comes to hiring a chef, and that’s what makes it so attractive. There’s no denying the immense amount of stress associated with the role, so it takes a resilient positivity to withstand these pressures.


A great chef brings positivity into work without fail and isn’t afraid to share it around the room.


We hope you can agree that these are some of the key qualities associated with a great chef. But have we missed any? If so, be sure to let us know by visiting our Facebook page which is full of recipes, giveaways, and industry insights. And the next time that you’re hiring, remember this list!