Cook responsibilities, job description, and requirements

Last updated: December 5, 2023
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Cook responsibilities, job description, and requirements
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Do you have a passion for cooking and food preparation?

If so, becoming a cook could be the perfect job for you. But what experience do you need to become a cook, and what type of cook can you become?

In this article, we’ll explore the responsibilities and job description of a cook. We’ll also look at what it takes to become a cook and what the job outlook is like for this profession.

What is a cook?

Cooks are the people who prepare and cook food in a kitchen. Each cook in a kitchen has their own responsibilities. As a team, cooks collaborate to provide delicious meals for the people they’re serving.

Many cooks work in restaurant kitchens. But other types of businesses also need cooks to prepare food.

Cooks can work in:

  • Cafeterias
  • Fast food or quick serve restaurants
  • Restaurant chains, or fine dining establishments
  • Food preparation businesses
  • Catering businesses
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels

And many more places.

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What are the duties and responsibilities of a cook?

Working as a cook can be a high-paying manual job, but it comes with many responsibilities.

The duties and responsibilities on a cook job description can include:

  • Preparing tasty meals for customers on time
  • Preparing meat, vegetables, garnishes, and other ingredients to be used for cooking
  • Cooking menu items using various kitchen gadgets and cooking methods
  • Making sure that food items are always fresh before serving
  • Maintaining a clean kitchen station and work area and making sure the utensils and kitchen equipment are left clean after each use
  • Working with other kitchen staff to ensure consistent and high-quality food service
  • Resolving issues related to food orders or customer complaints efficiently
  • Having knowledge about the daily menu and accommodating dietary requests
  • Arranging, garnishing, and plating dishes to a high standard
  • Checking food before it’s given to the wait staff to serve to customers
  • Making sure the kitchen is left clean and sanitized after cooking
  • Keeping regular stock of the pantry and ordering supplies when necessary
  • Being involved in planning menus
  • Working in compliance with food safety regulations and processes
  • Keeping a stock inventory record

Types of cooks in a restaurant kitchen

Not all cooks have the same role in a restaurant kitchen.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of cook and chef jobs you’ll find in a restaurant setting:

  • Executive chef: Not all restaurants have an executive chef. This is mostly a management role, and executive chefs often won’t cook at all. They’re responsible for keeping the kitchen running smoothly and menu planning.
  • Head chef: The head chef is the cook responsible for controlling the entire kitchen. In some establishments, the head chef will do some cooking, but in other cases, they may delegate.
  • Sous chef: This cook is second in command after the head chef. They’ll be more hands-on than the head chef and fill in for them when needed.

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  • Line cooks: These cooks are each responsible for their own kitchen station. These may also be called station chefs, line chefs, or Chef de Partie (traditional French name). Some examples of line cooks include vegetable chefs, grilling chefs, fish chefs, and pastry chefs.
  • Prep cooks: These cooks manage food and ingredient preparation, also called ‘mise en place,’ before meals are cooked.
  • Kitchen porter: This type of cook usually doesn’t have any formal culinary training. They’re in charge of tasks like cleaning the kitchen and food preparation: peeling potatoes, washing lettuce, and more.

So what’s the difference between a chef and a cook?

Anyone who gets paid for food preparation is considered a cook. However, a chef often works in a restaurant or hotel setting.

They’re also skilled and trained in the culinary arts.

What are the required skills and knowledge of a cook?

The skills and requirements to become a cook depend on what type of role you want in the kitchen.

It also depends on what type of establishment you want to work for.

Most employers will require you to have a high school diploma or a GED, as well as a food handling safety certificate. And several of them will also prefer to hire someone with a culinary school certification or diploma.

If you want to become a cook or a chef without going to culinary school, you’ll have to practice your culinary skills and work hard.

You’ll also need to start lower on the ladder in a kitchen, like working as a dishwasher, and find a mentor who is willing to train you.

What qualities should a cook have?

Becoming a cook isn’t for everyone. It takes several qualities to thrive in the high-pressure environment of a kitchen, especially if you want to work in a restaurant.

But if it’s something you enjoy, then you will likely thrive in a cook role.

Cooks need physical strength and stamina. They’re on their feet for several hours and also need to lift heavy pots and reach or bend for ingredients and tools.

Dexterity is important, especially when handling hot pans, broilers, and fryers and sharp kitchen utensils and tools.

Cooks also need to be highly organized. People who are unorganized can quickly derail a kitchen. They can fall behind, prepare food in the wrong order, or make costly mistakes.

As such, cooks also need to know how to focus on their own work but also work as part of a team.

Finally, cooks must be capable of taking critique for their work.

Cook job salary and outlook

Job growth for cooks is climbing faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the next ten years, it’s expected to grow by 10%.

The median pay for cooks is $27,250 per year, or $13.10 per hour.

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Chefs and head cooks make significantly more. The median pay for chefs and head cooks is $53,380 per year, or $25.66 per hour.

Cook jobs hiring right now

Are you passionate about cooking and want to start a career as a cook? You can search for cook jobs hiring right now on Jobcase.

If you prefer to cook food in a school setting, there are several school cook jobs hiring right now as well.

Start a fulfilling career as a cook

Becoming a cook is hard work. But for the right person, it’s fulfilling work. It requires grit and passion.

Start your job search to become a cook by looking on Jobcase for your next cook job opportunity. You can sign up and get notified when new cook jobs open up near you.



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