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What Is a Cook and How to Become One


What Does a Cook Do?

A Cook—also called a Chef—is ultimately responsible for preparing the food that is served in restaurants or other dining establishments. As the head of the kitchen, Cooks also supervise other work and oversee the kitchen to ensure it all runs smoothly. In some restaurants, Cooks are responsible for creating recipes and menus, planning events, ensuring that food and kitchen regulations are followed, and sticking to a restaurant budget. There are different levels of this position that you can earn, meaning that there can be a wide range to all the potential possibilities and responsibilities of a daily Cook. For example, there’s the Head Chef who runs the kitchen while the other Cooks are responsible for specific types of food.

How to Become a Cook

To become a cook you should try to gain experience in a restaurant kitchen in any role you can. Learn about cooking techniques, restaurant kitchen operations, best professional practices for restaurant management, and food safety guidelines. You can attend culinary school to complete professional training in running a kitchen, creating a restaurant menu, and preparing meals in compliance with food safety guidelines. Many culinary arts programs have externship requirements that will help you get a foot in the kitchen door. Your culinary arts training can help you advance from line cook to kitchen management positions, though in most kitchens, proven talent and work ethic on the job are the most important factors to help you find success in this career.

Do Cooks Get Tips?

A cook is a professional who prepares food for dining guests. Diners often leave tips to demonstrate their satisfaction with the food or service they have received or to express thanks for an inclusive menu with various options. Some establishments ask servers to pool tips or to tip out other staff at the end of the shift. In this case, the cook may receive a portion of the tips. However, because they rarely interact directly with the dining guests, cooks rarely get tips directly. Some restaurants are also experimenting with including a service fee on the guest check or increasing menu prices to include the value of a tip so that wages may be higher for non-tip positions. States have different labor laws about tipping and wages, so be sure to look up your local regulations.

What Do Cooks Wear?

A cook is a professional who works in the kitchen of a restaurant, hotel, hospital, or living facility. Most employers in this industry have requirements for the appearance and attire, and some provide uniforms. Requirements may include a clean chef’s coat and apron, work pants, comfortable and safe work shoes, and a head covering (hairnet or hat). There are also health and safety regulations in each state that may include things like a mandate that food handlers wear a hairnet and rubber gloves or keep short clean fingernails.

Cook Job Description Sample

With this Cook job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Cook role.

Job Summary

The cook will prepare meals and follow establishment recipes. Duties include preparing ingredients, adhering to the restaurant menu, and following food health and safety procedures. Cook, clean, assist other cooks and staff and deliver food in a fast-paced environment. Work may include operating a grill, oven, or fryer. Previous experience in a team environment and various cooking methods preferred.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Setting up, cleaning, and organizing work stations
  • Preparing ingredients for the shift; washing vegetables, chopping, seasoning meat, etc.
  • Preparing oven, utensils, and grill for shift
  • Taking orders from wait staff or computerized system
  • Cooking order according to food health and safety standards
  • Recommending ideas for specials or seasonal dishes
  • Handling multiple food orders at one time
  • Monitoring multiple food orders as new orders arrive
  • Dressing order for presentation
  • Ensuring each guest order has the correct food and sides
  • Delivering food order to wait staff in a timely manner
  • Storing all food properly
  • Sanitizing and cleaning work stations and utensils
  • Reordering stock and food supplies
  • Monitoring other cooks and team members
  • Assisting other cooks in preparing food or helping other team members when needed

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Able to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Able to multitask, prioritize, and manage time efficiently
  • Physical endurance to stand for an entire shift
  • Self-motivated and self-directed
  • Works well as part of a team and on individual tasks
  • Able to quickly memorize complex or multiple orders
  • High school degree or equivalent
  • Previous experience as a busboy, washer, waiter, cook, or relevant work experience
  • Legally able to work in establishments which serve alcohol
  • Able to work early mornings, nights, and weekends
  • able to bend, move, and lift up to 25 pounds or more
  • Physically able to stand and move during the length of shift; able to bend and kneel through shift; able to lift up to 25 pounds or more
  • Must pass a background check
  • Able to read and write