How will I know if the maid can cook if I cannot rely on her reference?

Dear Gourmet,

It has often been said that one woman's meat is another woman's poison. So an employer can say in all honesty that her maid is an excellent cook and yet her cooking may not be palatable to her next employer. If you are particular about food consider the following:

  • The candidate's previous culinary experience. If she used to cook for a Chinese family, do not expect her to know how to cook a beef steak. Many Chinese people do not even eat beef. Hire her if you find the less exotic Chinese dishes acceptable - like fried rice, pork chop, fried fish, sweet and sour anything and such like. Meanwhile you can teach her how to prepare the simpler western dishes.
  • The frequency with which her employers eat at home. If the family often eat out it can mean she is not a good cook; or that the employer's irregular schedule makes it inconvenient to eat at home. In either case, it gives the maid fewer opportunities for practice.
  • What her employer says about her cooking is subjective but a positive evaluation is probably a plus.
  • How confidently does she rate herself as a cook? A maid who says very confidently that she is a good cook is probably a more competent cook than one who answers rather inaudibly, regardless of what she says.
  • How well she describes the procedure of cooking her best dish; what the ingredients are. (Give her plenty of time. Do not be too hard on her. How would you yourself fare at an oral?)
  • Do the employers invite friends home for dinner? And if they do invite guests for dinner, who does the cooking?

If she answers all your questions to your satisfaction, you still have to remember, the test of the pudding is in the eating. So even you find her answers credible, you may not enjoy her cooking, not immediately. But there is an equal chance you will find her cooking good. Furthermore, if a Filipino or an Indonesian maid can learn to cook Chinese food, she can learn to cook western food, too.

On the other hand, if she flunks most your tests, she will probably be a very mediocre cook, if that.




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