Food & dining


Anne Burrell’s job is to grill chefs for restaurant jobs

Anne Burrell with Boston restaurateur Salvatore Lupoli on Burrell’s Food Network show, “Chef Wanted.”
Food Network
Anne Burrell with Boston restaurateur Salvatore Lupoli on Burrell’s Food Network show, “Chef Wanted.”

In the Aug. 29 episode of Food Network’s “Chef Wanted With Anne Burrell,” airing at 10 p.m., the host brings her trademark spiky hair to Boston to help Salvatore’s find a new executive chef for multiple locations. “Salvatore [Lupoli] was such a lovely character and a good egg,” Burrell says. “I’m a fan of a good old-fashioned red-sauce Italian place so I was very happy to go there.” While she was filming in Boston, the celebrity chef branched out from Italian to dine at Legal Harborside on the waterfront. “Perfect day, perfect people watching, and a big fat lobster roll in Boston? It’s exactly what you’re supposed to do,” she says. Along with the currently airing third season of “Chef Wanted,” Burrell has a new book, “Own Your Kitchen: Recipes to Inspire & Empower,” due out Oct. 15.

Q. How do you choose the restaurants on “Chef Wanted”?

A. We go all over the place and we look for restaurants that we feel can use the most help, the people that really need chefs and people that are really open to the experience. I mean, it’s a grueling process what we do, not only for the chefs that are involved but for the restaurateurs. It’s tough, they have to shut down for a couple of days, we take over their life, but at the end of it, they come out with a new chef and hopefully feeling like it’s been an exciting and worthwhile opportunity.


Q. What are you looking for in these chefs?

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A. Each opportunity is different. The needs of the restaurant, the size, the location, but mostly across the board when you’re looking for chefs, we’re looking for people who are really passionate about what they do, really business-minded, but are also really amazing cooks and people who can lead their team. The chef is the leader of the kitchen so [they need to be] someone who will fit in with the dynamic of the people that already work there, the type of food, the type of clientele.

Q. How do you come up with the challenges for the chefs?

A. We extensively interview the owners, the people that are doing the hiring, and find out what’s the story with your restaurant, what’s really important to you, what is special about your restaurant, what are your big sellers, what would you like to do more of. We have a litany of questions that we ask and then we try to make creative and challenging tests tailored to each restaurant.

Q. Do you feel the need to really push these chefs for television drama or is a real chef interview somewhat akin to what we see on the show?


A. Restaurants are nutty places and chefs are nutty people and when you then turn the cameras on, you never know what’s going to happen. Then you bring 60 people in for dinner service and you put all the tickets in at the same time. We know that this job interview process is extremely difficult and we are looking to see how they will react under pressure, how they will think on their feet as chefs, how they manage their team under pressure, how they interact with the staff during a really pressure-packed situation. We push people to the limit. It’s hard on them, but then on the other end, there’s a big fat job waiting for someone.

Q. Do you have a say in who the restaurant hires?

A. It’s the decision of the restaurant or the owners, whoever is in the position of doing the hiring. I definitely weigh in with my opinion. I like to put all the cards on the table and spell things out for people and I play devil’s advocate sometimes.

Q. Have you ever been disappointed by a restaurant’s final decision?

A. I bring all the chefs there in the first place because I feel for whatever reason that they can do the job. So if you look at it that way, I win every single time. I brought the people there. I’ve never been disappointed in who they chose. I might have kind of gone in another direction, but whoever the restaurant picks, I’m responsible for those chefs being there, so ultimately I’m not disappointed.


Q. When contestants are booted, you often say, “Your job interview is over.” Do people approach you and treat that like your catchphrase?

A. I never have [been told that] but I’m wondering now if that’s going to start happening. I have a ton of other little sayings so I get approached with that or I get approached with “Oh my gosh, your hair” or people just asking, “Can I touch your hair?” That’s not always my favorite, especially when they just do it and don’t ask.

Q. Yeah, I wouldn’t imagine you’d want to be pawed at while in the airport.

A. Sometimes it’s a little disconcerting.

Interview was condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at glenn.yoder@globe